As an interpreter, what would you do?

In my interpreters’ circle of friends, one of them posted this question in her Facebook status,

A sign language interpreter was asked by the deaf group/audience to go on stage so they could see him better. The organizers approved but the government officer-speaker asked the interpreter to get off the stage because “he distracts her”. If you were the interpreter or one of the deaf audience WHAT WOULD YOU DO?

I was the first one who replied. I answered,

I will politely ask the speaker that there are deaf people in the audience. But if she still insists on not distracting her, then I have no other choice but to request the entire deaf audience to walk out.

I received two “likes” in my reply. But there were other more bold and strong answers. Now to my deaf and hearing readers, may I throw the question to you? What would you do if you are caught in this uncompromising position?🙂


  1. Art

    I would not have requested the deaf audience to walk out. That is not my choice and not part of my job.. The deaf have the right and the power to make their own decisions. I would explain the situation to the deaf consumers – but leaving is their choice – not mine.

    As an interpreter in the US and a member of RID (Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf), I adhere to our Code of Professional Conduct. Of course, I know you are in the Philippines and may not have a national organization of interpreters that address such issues. Also, in the US we have a national law, the Americans with Disabilities Act, which does mandate equal access for all. RID’s website is http://www.rid.org should you care to read the full CPC.
    With that said, and if I was presented with the same situation, I would politely talk to the hearing presenter and do my best to educate the presenter concerning the needs of the deaf audience. But, firstly I would hope to set up some guide lines before the presentation started, and explain the needs of the deaf consumer. And of course, I follow the wants and needs of the deaf consumer to facilitate full and equal access to the presentation.
    CPC 2.0 Professionalism
    Tenet: Interpreters possesses the professional skills and knowledge required for the specific interpreting situation. Interpreters accept assignments using discretion with regard to skill, communication mode, setting and consumer needs…..
    2.1 Assess consumer needs and the interpreting situation before and during the assignment and make adjustments as necessary.
    CPC 3.0 Conduct
    Tenet: Interpreters conduct themselves in a manner appropriate to the specific interpreting situation.
    3.1 Consult with appropriate persons regarding the interpreting situation to determine such issues such as placement and adaptations necessary to interpret effectively.
    CPC 4.0 Respect for Consumers
    Tenet: Interpreters demonstrate respect for consumers.
    4.4 Facilitate communication access and equality, and support the full interaction and independence of consumers.
    CPC 5.0 Respect for Colleagues
    5.1 Maintain civility………..
    5.2 Work cooperatively…………
    Again, I know that I am an interpreter in the US and it may be quite different in the Philippines.

    BTW – I visited the Philippines 2 years ago for 3 weeks and had a great time.

  2. I wouldn’t say that requesting the entire deaf audience to walk out would be my “only choice.” That would be a very liberal “control” for that “demand” (Demand-Control Schema, Dean & Pollard). Out of all the things an interpreter could do or not do, what led you to chose that response? Can you think of other responses an interpreter could make / other controls an interpreter could apply?

  3. Min Sebastian

    Just read this article. Am a Filipino and a deaf interpreter in our local church. I may not maybe as Professional Interpreter as some of you are, but, I believe, in every task given to a person, esp for public viewing; Professionalism is a must. I, myself, would not ask the deaf audience to walk out in worst scenario..they do have the right to be updated about the things going on around them. Actually, i believe, it’s the interpreter’s responsibility to inform the organizers as well as the speaker that there are deaf people in the audience, might as well, give them a heads up regarding the situation and the need for the interpreter to be “heard” by the deaf..you/or the organizer could have reserved a special place for the deaf so they and the interpreter will not “distract” the speaker.
    Planning and organizing go hand in hand.




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