Elevating Deaf People’s Power of Choice in Video Remote Interpreting Settings

If I have to use video remote interpreting (VRI) for my appointments and meetings, do I have to use interpreters within my home state? Not necessarily. When I was a college administrator, I had to make decisions about service providers’ pay (interpreters and speech-to-text providers). Those decisions were discussed in meetings with non-deaf administrators within the college.  Unfortunately, a couple of local interpreters we regularly worked with broke confidentiality, sharing private information discussed in those meetings. After that violation of confidence, I decided my meetings had to be handled using VRI with an agency outside my area. The interpreters from the VRI agency did not care about what happened in our area because it was outside their area of familiarity. Their services were more effective and trustworthy. 

The pandemic has shown us what the world IS capable of doing if it embraced an ethos of disability justice….work from home? sure. accommodations for crip time? sure! flexibility on this and that? sure! 

The pandemic has also shown us yet another avenue of where ableist systems can bend for deaf people. Preferred interpreters. For example, my partner’s favorite interpreter in the world lives in Boston. Now that organizations are willing (and have to at this time) meet via Zoom, hypothetically, he can now request his favorite Boston interpreter for all meetings using Zoom. What does this moment yield in future possibilities for creating a more accommodating world and communication equity for deaf people?

The pandemic forcing us to communicate remotely has given deaf people the power to handpick their interpreters who best serve their access needs. When I realized this one morning recently, I started making requests for interpreters I trust for my meetings/appointments in the subsequent weeks without constraint on geographic area. I’ve worked with my favorites who are not based in my local area. I’m so relieved my wishes have been honored. 

Thus, if deaf people are concerned about confidentiality and trust in interpreters, I think this time gives us a ripe opportunity to exercise our preferences.

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