Classroom Interpreting

EIPA Written Test and Knowledge Standards

Deaf Culture

Many diverse cultures, or communities, exist in the United States. One such community is the Deaf community. Historically, the Deaf community has been self-sufficient and resilient despite the hearing community’s perception that deaf people are less capable than they are.

Deaf adults typically do not like the term “hearing impaired” because it implies that they are broken and need to be fixed rather than simply being deaf.  They prefer the terms “deaf” or “hard of hearing”. In general, deaf adults view themselves as a linguistic minority, and not a handicapped group.

There are many aspects of the Deaf community that must be understood by the educational interpreter. If these differences are not understood, it can be difficult for the interpreter and the deaf of hard of hearing student to communicate on an equal level.

Core Standards

Aspects of deaf culture considered when developing the Deaf Culture portion of the EIPA Written Test, include:

Culture

  • In the field of deafness, the word “Deaf” is often capitalized in order to convey a cultural association, rather than a medical condition.
  • Culturally deaf people tend to view cochlear implants as representing a medical model which views deaf and hard of hearing students as needing to be fixed and become hearing.
  • As with all minority populations, deaf and hard of hearing students should learn about other deaf and hard of hearing people and Deaf culture in order to help develop their identity as a deaf or hard of hearing person. 
  • Culture changes in order to represent and integrate new experiences of its members.
  • Culture changes as the needs and interests of its members change.
  • Cultural identity is an important contributing factor related to self-esteem and self-awareness and serves as a resource for decision making.
  • Culture is the sum total of attainments of a community of people, such as deaf and hard of hearing people, including shared language, social norms, art forms, literature, beliefs, customs, tradition, and other related attainments.

Access to Technology

  • The federal government requires states to provide a relay system in which hearing and deaf people can telephone each other, using a third person (a relay operator or a video relay interpreter).
  • An important aspect of deaf culture is making sure that everyone has equal access about news and events. 
  • Closed captioned movies and television programs allow a student to watch and read a program. However, depending on a student’s ability to read, he may or may not be able to access the content. Also, watching a program and reading captions simultaneously is more difficult than listening to the text and viewing the movie simultaneously.

Organizations & Associations

  • There are national and international deaf associations that are deeply valued by the Deaf community, such as the National Association of the Deaf, and the Deaf Olympics.
  • The Junior National Association of the Deaf is an organization of Deaf youth that sponsors an annual conference for all deaf and hard of hearing adolescents.
  • There are appropriate attention-getting strategies in the Deaf community, such as gently tapping someone, waving a hand, or tapping a table. There are also inappropriate strategies for getting attention, such as grabbing a person’s chin, kicking, or tapping too hard.
  • There are several national and international associations that are deeply valued by both Deaf and hearing people of color. These associations include National Association of Black Deaf Advocates, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Intertribal Deaf Council, National Hispanic Council, National Asian Deaf Congress, National Council of La Raza, League of United Latin American Citizens, Deaf and Hard of Hearing in government, Congress of Racial Equity, and Women of Color Resource Center.

Language

  • Deaf people do not typically create name signs based on a physical characteristic or personality trait. There are conventions for developing name signs.
  • The Deaf community has its own forms of language play, such as ABC stories.
  • It is appropriate to negotiate logistics of the interpreting environment prior to beginning interpreting. Standing near the speaker or any visual display of information is highly desirable.

Resources

  • Deaf adults can be an important resource for public schools, providing information about sign language, social opportunities, identity, and strategies for being a successful deaf or hard of hearing adult.
  • Deaf and hard of hearing adults are an excellent resource for providing information about what technology is available.
  • Deaf adults who are also minorities can be an important resource for public schools, providing information about sign language, social opportunities, identity, and strategies for being a successful deaf adult.

Diversity

  • Deaf students from diverse cultures should learn about diverse cultures and their culture in order to help develop an identity as a deaf person of color. 
  • Interpreters who work with students from diverse cultures need strategies for dealing with inter-cultural and intra-cultural conflicts.
  • Interpreters need to develop multicultural competencies so they can understand the implications of acculturation, enculturation and assimilation processes for individual and cultural groups.
  • Historically, people of diverse cultures have been self-sufficient and resilient despite the mainstream community's perception that they are less capable than they are.
  • Deaf students from diverse cultures should learn about their culture in order to help develop an identity as a deaf person of color. 

Interpreters

  • A multicultural/multilingual sign language interpreter is an interpreter that possesses the required cultural and linguistic competencies, including the sensitivity, knowledge, background, interpreting skills and/or language(s) necessary to provide equal communication and cultural access, both in content and affect, receptively and expressively, for a given consumer and situation.
  • An interpreter who works with students from diverse cultures should:
    • Demonstrate knowledge of historical contexts of culturally and linguistically diverse deaf and hearing communities within educational, social, legal, medical, vocational, religious and political systems of the U.S. dominant culture. 
    • Demonstrate knowledge and respect of culturally specific attire, styles, food, celebrations, religions, spiritual beliefs, and holidays, as well as the appropriate signs to communicate about them.
    • Demonstrate awareness of "power balance/imbalance" and the "power of attrition". 
    • Demonstrate the ability not to impose his or her own value systems and biases on students from culturally and linguistically diverse communities.
    • Demonstrate attitudes, empathy, listening and observational abilities with culturally and linguistically diverse communities as well as the ability to establish rapport following culturally and linguistically appropriate techniques.
    • Be able to identify the cross-cultural implications of eye contact, physical touch, and gestured systems, as well as beliefs about time, educational professions, social protocols and taboos. 
    • Recognize that specific cultural vocabularies have a high emotional content based on specific historical perspectives.
    • Recognize the overt and covert challenges people of color face relative to access to interpreters and to individual interpreter's knowledge of the consumer's culture.
    • Recognize non-manual signals and gestures that are culturally specific and be able to differentiate between in-group and out-group sign usage.
    • Recognize the cultural implications of one’s own specific cultural norms, behaviors and values and their impact on an interpreting assignment.
    • Be aware of the implications of geographical issues such as country of origin, immigration patterns, and current demographics of culturally and linguistically diverse deaf and hearing communities.
    • Be aware of the cross-cultural implications of class identification, social and economic status, literacy, and educational achievement.