THE DEAF CULTURE
Studies conducted during 1996 by the National Center for Health Statistics reveal that there are approximately 22 million individuals, approximately 9% of the total U.S. population three years of age and older with reported hearing problems. Of that number between 421,000 and 1,152,000 are considered deaf. This wide variance is attributable to the fact that there is no legal definition of deafness.
These deaf individuals in America comprise a distinct, separate subculture of our society. A subculture with its own language, social hierarchy and values. Often viewing themselves as outsiders in a hearing world, they form tight knit groups and are reluctant to interact with the hearing world unless necessary. As a result of these differences the deaf population faces problems in every area of their life, in social situations, employment, education, etc.
These cultural and linguistic differences pose special problems for the deaf and hearing populace as they attempt to establish effective and meaningful communication. These problems are confronted and communication established however, through the use of an interpreter.
In general, an interpreter should be used
when requested by a deaf person in order to communicate effectively and
as a means of insuring equal access to services. Circumstances to be taken
into consideration in providing an interpreter include:
Like many other languages, Spanish, German, French, etc, the language of the deaf is considered, treated and taught as a foreign language. In fact, 16 states, Kentucky included, have specific legislation recognizing it as such. See, KRS 164.4785. Like these other foreign languages, ASL is not universal. Unlike these other languages however, which are of a spoken, auditory nature, ASL is a language of gesture, facial expression and physical nuance. It possesses its own grammar and syntax. It is based on the use of signs that represent a limited number of primarily concrete terms. As in any foreign language it is often difficult for words to be translated verbatim. It relies heavily on inflection to convey a great variety of information through manipulation of a root sign. In ASL, open-ended questions, abstract concepts, technical jargon and even big words cannot be used, as there is no effective way to convey their meaning.
ASL is a complete language within itself. ASL is not dependent upon English for its meaning and it bears no structural resemblance to English. Qualifiers follow, not precede nouns, events are placed in chronological order, cause and effect
relationships are generally stated as rhetorical questions, and conditional phrases are usually last. Because the average deaf high school graduate reads and writes at the fourth grade level, many have limited knowledge of English grammar rules and do not use English grammar even when writing. For example, the phrase "you must tell me what you really need the most" would, in ASL, be "your true most need tell me must." While the phrase "have you been to Kentucky" would be interpreted "touch Kentucky already you." It is due to the cultural and linguistic divergence between the deaf and the hearing populations that interpreters serve as a necessary bridge spanning the gap between two worlds.
WHAT TO EXPECT
An interpreter may be thought of as a facilitator.
They do not serve as advocates, counselors or representatives. Both the
Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) and the National Association
for the Deaf (NAD) have established an Interpreter Code of Ethics which,
as relevant for the scope of this writing, demands:
IN THE LEGAL ARENA
Within the judicial context an interpreter is warranted at the time Miranda warnings are given, during any interrogation, in the review of documents, in the taking of depositions, during any court proceedings, i.e., Grand Jury, conferences, all stages of criminal, civil juvenile, or mental inquest cases, etc. This list is of course in no way exclusive. See also, KRS 30A.425, KRS 344.500.
Due to the complexity and varying differences in the language and because of the complexity of legal proceedings there will be a demand placed upon the individual utilizing the services of the interpreter to spend additional time with the interpreter in order to insure accuracy in the communication process. This will often mean informing the interpreter of many legal terms they may encounter, advising them of the relevant charges and facts, the manner of the proceedings, etc. In turn, the individual may expect, and should seek out, advice from the interpreter on the most effective ways to phrase relevant questions before they are ever asked in order to avoid many problems that can occur. These communication differences further necessitate spending more time with the deaf client to insure they understand the process and the terms as well. For without the cultural and linguistic understanding of the information the deaf individual will not have the ability to comprehend many individual words much less the long often convoluted sentences used in the judicial process. The time of trial is not the time to attempt to educate your interpreter or client.
THE INTERPRETER'S APPOINTMENT
Kentucky has provided for the appointment
of interpreters where the individual is:
If you require the services of a certified interpreter you have the responsibility to inform the court of this need by contacting with the clerk of court or Court Administrator's Office. Arrangements will then be made through either the Kentucky Commission on the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (KCDHH), Kentucky Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (KYRID) or Kentucky Association of the Deaf (KYAD) for interpreter services to be provided. Should you have a preference of interpreters, you should recommend that particular individual to the court liaison.
For other individuals working in a state
agency, needing the services of an interpreter outside the courtroom setting,
the Access Center Program within the Kentucky Commission on the Deaf and
Hard of Hearing is available to assist you in choosing an appropriate interpreter.
The need for such services outside the courtroom may occur when:
Exactly who may be the right interpreter for the job is as varied as the circumstances giving rise to the need. Whoever may be selected however must be qualified. As a measure of quality assurance the States follow two approaches in the regulation of interpreters. (1) The states may enact legislation specifically addressing the appropriate standards or (2) legislation may assign such authority to a Board, agency or Commission.
While such regulations began to appear in the early 70's it was not until the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990 that the impetus for quality and accessibility was felt. Today, the various state standards, viewed in combination with existing Federal law, provide comprehensive protection respecting the choice of the consumer while establishing reliable standard providers can rely upon and interpreters can achieve. The Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) and the National Association for the Deaf (NAD) serve as the yardsticks against which these interpreters are measured.
Both NAD and RID evaluations are given
in Kentucky. The NAD testing includes a short interview covering the individual's
knowledge of interpreting, ethics, situations, etc… followed by a performance
test. This portion of the test consists of six different interpreting situations.
NAD offers three levels of certification.
For further information please contact:
Ky. Commission on the Deaf and Hard of
Ky. Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf
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