A Question about Questions

One of the side effects of being a deaf philosopher is that the start-up costs of working with signed language interpreters* means I’m still figuring out some things that most philosophers started figuring out when they were still graduate students.

For example, I didn’t realize until after I defended my dissertation that it was a disciplinary norm to “talk philosophy” or that one should circulate drafts to colleagues for feedback before presenting one’s ideas in more public venues. (This should not be taken as a reflection on the quality of my graduate program, but simply as an observation about the general lack of access deaf people have to doxa – that stuff that everybody knows or finds out through informal conversations.)

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Defer to the Deaf Person: Sign Language Interpretation and Quality Control

The story about the charlatan “signed language interpreter” at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service raises awareness about a problem that’s received little attention in mainstream media. This is the problem of signed language interpreter quality control. This is a huge issue in many deaf communities, but I want to focus on the version of the problem that comes up for deaf academics, including deaf philosophers.

Highly professional signed language interpreters follow professional codes of ethics tenets stating interpreters should not accept assignments they aren’t qualified for.

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Charlatan Interpreter Sparks Outrage During Mandela’s Service

cross-posted on Feminist Philosophers

Once again, a charlatan “signed language interpreter” has stolen center stage. This happened on international television during the live streaming of Nelson Mandela’s service today. Deaf South Africans viewing the live streaming television feed were cheated of the opportunity to fully participate in the mourning of one of their nation’s greatest leaders, thanks to this unconscionable action.

…during the service, rather than remembering Mandela, many South Africans (and others from around the world) who were either Deaf, or work with Deaf people, were expressing their outrage.

Wilma Newhoudt-Druchen, the first deaf woman to be elected to the South African parliament tweeted:

ANC linked interpreter on the stage with dep president of ANC is signing rubbish. He cannot sign. Please get him off

I’m fuming mad, because this happens all too often.

A hearing person with a modicum of signing skill – let alone interpretation skill, which is something else entirely – assures a non-signing hearing person of his competence to interpret for deaf people.  Sometimes this is done via a-friend-of-a-friend; sometimes someone has the chutzpah to offer her services when the opportunity presents itself (this would be the equivalent of ambulance chasing), and sometimes the deaf person’s expertise to vet interpreters is offered and rejected (because, you know, interpreters are fungible).



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