(Sight translation by Certified Deaf Interpreter Mistie Owens)

Last month I had the opportunity to be a co-presenter for the InDemand Interpreting webinar, “Video remote interpreting for Deaf and HOH patients: Finding balance in the midst of controversy.” My co-presenters all shared aspects of what VRI entails, from the legal obligation of providers for the patient’s preferred language to the commitment InDemand has to its Deaf and hard of hearing (HOH) patient base. I had an opportunity to provide the cultural view of experiencing video remote interpreting (VRI), as both a Deaf person, and a Certified Deaf Interpreter (CDI) working for InDemand.

It is common knowledge that nine out of ten Deaf people originate from families who hear normally. Most hearing families, when faced with their child’s lack of hearing at birth, are not readily knowledgeable about the communication options, which can make it difficult for a Deaf child to gain early language acquisition by way of American Sign Language (ASL). This barrier can later contribute to layers of language and cultural dysfluency when the child is ready for school and beyond.  Examples of this can be seen in the following ways:

  • Knowledge deficiency as to family and individual health history
  • Constrained environmental learning within family and social circle
  • Lack of belief in healthcare providers’ and other hearing peoples’ efforts to aid them

We know that the Deaf community in our country is varied, from grassroots members of society to foreign-born, and that the levels of hearing difficulty for those who are HOH is no different.  However, what separates the reference to “Deaf identity” from “hearing difficulty” is a cultural label and medical pathology. There are children who develop hearing loss at any time in their youth and there are adults who lose their hearing acuity as a result of loud noises, traumatic injury or as part of aging.  An affinity to the health view of deafness or to the cultural identification is a personal, individual choice, as exemplified by the value statement created by the National Association of Deafness (NAD).

While it is a very good time to be a Deaf or HOH person living in this age of technological advances with many avenues of communication available, from texting to videophone equipment, smartphone “live messaging” to social platforms and everyone comes together to communicate in a variety of ways, there is still pushback from the Deaf and HOH community regarding the use of VRI.  There are several facets of this resistance. First, the choice of how a Deaf person utilizes ASL interpreters during a healthcare appointment was, for a very long time, limited to on-site interpreters. The real-time, fully dimensional presence of an interpreter assisting in healthcare communication was only accomplished as a standard about two decades ago.  Secondly, the quality of video technology with any one of the many VRI providers and the manner in how these providers hired their video interpreters could vary greatly including if interpreters were qualified, medically trained, and ethical.  Further the lack of knowledge when attempting to connect to a VRI platform for a Deaf patient frequently met with frustration and complexity.

We know that it will require time and a development of trust, resilience and reliability between the Deaf and/or HOH patient, the provider and InDemand Interpreting to be fostered before VRI becomes a standard for patients needing ASL interpreters during their healthcare appointments. With that being said, InDemand Interpreting is at the forefront of the VRI industry and employs ASL interpreters as well as Certified Deaf Interpreters with intensive medical expertise and training as part of their offering and input from these CDIs are included in quality assurance and project goals for the company.

To listen to a full recording of the webinar, please visit: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/2794026558217338114?source=Website.

For more information, please reach out to me directly at  mowens@ii-terp.com