Thursday, June 25, 2015

Professional quality Language access meets ADA in language certification processes

RantWoman received this item off an email list for spoken language interpreters and is storing it here in blog as filing cabinet mode:

RantWoman is not an attorney and has no idea whehter what she has to say is helpful or relevant, but RantWoman thinks this is a VERY important case about professional certification exams, what they test, and whether what they test reflects what is needed in professional situations where the ability of a person to do the job within standards of practice common for other reasons besides accommodations--rather than others' assumptions about how to do the job--need to be at the forefront.

RantWoman is posting to her blog notes about the topic and thinking about what other fora seem appropriate for discussing what is on her mind. RantWoman wants to thank the attorney who is handlign the case for taking it on.

RantWoman's notes are based on some work as a spoken language interpreter, familiarity with codes of ethics and standards of practice for several bodies that certify spoken language interpreters, some familiarity for family reasons with sign languages from more than one culture, but without having recently read the filings or the website for the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf:

A Certified Deaf interpreter is suing the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf for violation of the Americans with Disabilities act because the certification process at a couple key points assumes that only a hearing person will be able to do the needed interpretation.

Website of attorney of record:

Here are things RantWoman hopes the legal certification process tests:
--Language knowledge and fluency written English and specific terminology for a given domain, such as legal terminology different legal venues and legal specialties. Law is a very large domain. No one, neither attorneyys nor interpreters knows everything. Professional standards of practice include all kinds of provisions for being honest about one's qualifications and seeking assistance or recusing oneself as  needed in different situations. RantWoman thinks a certification protocol could test a candidate's knowledge of these usual practices and in the process also provide candidates options for reasonable accommodations pathways to testing knowledge of the material.

--Sign language knowledge (both high-level legal terminology, ASL, home sign, range of usage depending on educational level for people whose native language is ASL or a home sign gestural language

--Knowledge of and ability to adhere to standards of practice including various kinds of circumstances where a relay interpreter is used, when one should recuse oneself because of conflict of interest or because one cannot competently address the needed material.

RantWoman will be interested to see what happens with this case.

RantWoman notes a possibly analogous issue for blind interpreters faced with sight translation tasks in certification exams. There are several different federal and state certification paths for spoken language interpreters. Typically the exams involve tests of simultaneous mode, consecutive mode, and sight translation. Or people are not allowed to proceed to the oral part of the exam without passing some kind of written test where there might be sight translation either direction for the language pair where certification is sought.

RantWoman is not aware of any litigation about access for blind test takers but accounts gathered on spoken language interpreter lists indicate a couple approaches. RantWoman has assembled only anecdotal information: practice varies for different certification bodies as far as how the sight translation issue is handled for blind test takers. In actual practice, blind interpreters, just like sighted interpreters work by phone. Or when sight translation is needed in a court setting, a team of two interpreters can work together to do what is needed. But as with the deaf interpreter above neitherthe certification process nor all the entities who rely on it address the range of needs and acceptable performance levels in different real-world situations.

[If this case were about a blind person, RantWoman might look at the history of blind people becoming Certified Mobility Instructors, another job title where for a long time the dominant assumption was that a blind person would not be able to provide another blind person with the necessary cues to help them navigate in unfamiliar environments. In fact, as with the linguistic skills of a Certified Deaf Interpreter, RantWoman cannot think of anyone better to prrovide relevant helpful assistance than a blind Orientation and Mobility Instructor. RantWoman is aware of several blind people working in this profession.]

RantWoman thinks a Certified Deaf Interpreter who is fluent in written English and has grown up as a sign language user probably possesses a number of layers of language knowledge critical for interpretation in some circumstances. RantWoman sees this as analogous to spoken language interpreters, some of whom will be very well=-versed in a specific dialect or domain and few of whom for a given language will have the breadth of knowledge for some circumstances.

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