"Expectation of Attention vs Zoning Rights"
Certainly, in many instances, the provision of an interpreter improves
communication access for d/Deaf people. But what about Deaf/hh people?
Those Hard of Hearing people who know and use ASL but who (depending on the
circumstances) can sometimes make use of their residual hearing.
Lipreading, amplification, provision of visual aids (e.g. PowerPoint Slides
and projected agendas), advance agenda dissemination, and occasional
repetitions or clarifications can help provide a high level of communication
access for a Hard-of-Hearing person.
Let's suppose that a combination of residual hearing and the
accommodations above bring the "level of access to the message content" to
somewhere around 85% to 90%.
Now it is relatively easy for the human mind to figure out what is being
discussed, even when having access to only 85% of the information. Our
minds are good at filling in the gaps. Which is to say if we know the topic
is "fruit," and we are exposed to the content: "wate_mel_n" we can generally
fill in the gaps
Bringing in an interpreter (even a certified, experienced one) also provides
about 85 to 90% access to communication content. This lack of full
communication is due to many factors. Here is an example of a factor I call
"lost in translation:"
Suppose the communication content was the statement: "The
immediate problem isn't lack of desire, it's lack of funding."
Given plenty of time, most interpreters could come up with a relatively
decent way of expressing that concept in ASL. But interpreters don't have
"plenty of time." They typically have less than a second per word.
The interpreter might plausibly sign: NOW-NOW-(immediate) PROBLEM NOT
LESS/REDUCED-(lack of) HUNGRY/WISH-(desire), PROBLEM WHAT? MONEY.
Which comes across as confusing "mental mush" and ends up with the overly
simplistic idea that "money is a problem" and the truncated idea that
"desire isn't a problem." When in reality the communicator never said that
desire isn't a problem...but rather he indicated that it isn't the
"immediate" problem. "Desire" could very well be a huge problem--just not
the one that needs focusing on at the moment.
truth is, Hard of Hearing consumers use interpreters differently than Deaf
Deaf people watch an interpreter and occasionally glance at the speaker to
gather socio-emotive information (emotional states, economic status, social
A HH person generally (depending on a multitude of factors) prefers to watch
the speaker and occasionally glance at the interpreter to fill in any
that an interpreter
can be of use to a
Hard of Hearing person may lead an administrator to assume that provision of
an interpreter is a good thing.
isn't always the case.
interpreters come with baggage in the form of "expectations."
A particular expectation is the "expectation of constant attention."
For example, if an interpreter is placed in a room and begins interpreting,
and there is a Hard of Hearing client in the room but the Deaf client is
late, the Hard of Hearing person feels obligated to watch the interpreter
whether or not the interpreter is any good or is providing more access to
the communication content than the Hard of Hearing person would be able to
obtain on his own. This feeling of obligation only partially stems from not
wanting to waste the company's money. Much of this feeling stems from the
assumption that many in the room are "wondering" why he or she needs an
interpreter in the first place and why money is being spent on an
interpreter when the Hard of Hearing person has apparently demonstrated the
ability to understand without the aid of an interpreter. Those same people
don't realize that in many circumstances a Hard of Hearing person becomes
"functionally" deaf (distance, extraneous noise, accents, bright background
lighting, mustaches, gum, hands over the mouth, backs turned, etc.) and in
those circumstances would benefit greatly and love to have a
"Watching" or "not watching" is very obvious to bystanders. "Listening" or
"not listening" is not obvious. Imagine if each time you were at a meeting
and you stopped actively listening to the speaker your ears
folded over and closed up. It would be rather conspicuous would it not?
You would no longer be able to "zone out" without attention being
immediately drawn to you. You would eventually become quite weary of having
no "zoning rights" (opportunities for mini-recuperation) and being required
to maintain a continuous high level of attention.
Hypnotists tend to put people to sleep by having them stare at the same
place or object for a few minutes. Most Hearing people have never tried to
stare at something for more than a few minutes and would be amazed at how
tiring it can be to watch an interpreter.
situation is dramatically different if there is even one
Deaf person in the room. The presence of a Deaf person in the room releases
the HoH person from the "expectation of constant attention" and frees him or
her to focus on the speaker and glance over at the interpreter only to catch
words or concepts that were missed.
of Hearing people very much enjoy and benefit from having that "instant
replay" available, but when there are no other Deaf in attendance -- given
an option between utilization of lipreading and provision of an interpreter,
many Hard of Hearing people would choose lipreading.
If I am the only Deaf/hh person at a meeting, and I'm sitting close enough
to see and "mostly" hear the speaker, I would rather the interpreter
just sit there resting his or her hands and listening. Then if I looked over
he or she would automatically and very quickly feed me the last sentence and
then I'd look back to the speaker. Unfortunately that is a lot like your
boss or the government buying you a salad from which you pick out and
eat only the croutons and throw away the rest. It is guilt inducing when
your boss pays an interpreter $30 to $55 for an hour's worth of interpreting
and you only need/use a few minutes of it. But then again, you never know
when you are going to arrive at a meeting and the logistics just aren't
conducive to lipreading and making use of your residual hearing (the speaker
is from another country, the air conditioner is noisy, the closest seating
is 20 feet away from the speaker, etc.). If you didn't schedule an
interpreter you end up
85% of the information in the meeting. Sigh.