Thursday, March 13, 2014

Cued Language Transliterators and the need for a formal complaint process

In February of 2014, Dr. Khadijat Rashid, an economics professor at Gallaudet University, posted an open letter through friends on Facebook and the letter eventually made its rounds through the deaf and hard of hearing community. What made the situation more complicated was the fact the Wall Street Journal published a video interview of the interpreter in question. The matter seems to be in RID's hands. However, this isn't the only instance of alleged gross misconduct and serves as another example of why RID has its Ethical Practices System, part of a "tri-fold approach to establishing the standards RID maintains for its membership."

What can the Cued Speech community learn from this experience in regards to ensuring that consumers have a means of resolving issues with cued language services? What processes and safeguards do we have in place to ensure that service providers adhere to standards and conduct? In a nutshell, what are our options? At this point it's not clear and it really isn't anyone's fault, but rather a result of circumstances. We must then look at the current state of cued language transliterating as a profession and identify who are the key players that have a role in this profession.

The Key Players 

TECUnit has served as the national certifying body for cued language transliterators for over two decades now. Currently operating out of Utah, the organization doesn't have the same resources as its sign language counterpart, the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID). TECUnit has its certification program which includes a cue-reading assessment, but isn't really in a position to host professional conferences where transliterators can gain credits for continued education as part of their certification maintenance. The organization has recently established new protocols for maintaining certification, so there has been some movement in the past few years.

A next step or area of focus that TECUnit should address is its transparency. It's not clear how TECUnit is operated or who is in charge, or whether there is any deaf representation on TECUnit's board. There are many questions that many different people have, but it is TECUnit's responsibility to answer all these basic questions in regards to organizational management and the certification management process. I encourage TECUnit to consider how they can improve their transparency and community engagement.

That doesn't mean there has been communication between key individuals within TECUnit and the National Cued Speech Association. Some dialogue has taken place over the past few years behind the scenes, however it's my sense that we need to open the conversation up and include the community on what issues are pertinent and how TECUnit and the NCSA plan to address them.

Speaking of the NCSA, The National Cued Speech Association has served as a national membership organization that serves to promote Cued Speech interests in a broad manner from federal legislation to scholarships and funding for Cued Speech programming such as cue camps and workshops. The main difference between both organizations is that TECUnit had a focused mission in terms of supporting the field of transliterating, while the NCSA has a broad mission of expanding Cued Speech's interest in different areas.

What about NCSA's culpability in the matter of cued language transliterating? Well, you've got to take into consideration that the NCSA has a lot on its radar and we did have success with the inclusion of cued language services in federal legislation. That certainly provided some impetus for a number of transliterators to pursue actual certification in order to meet standards put in place by either district or state-level educational agencies. The NCSA could do more, but should they be responsible for serving as a mediator or arbitrator in resolving complaints against CLTs? I don't think so. That's TECUnit's responsibility.

Yet, before we even get to the point of filing formal complaints with TECUnit, we must consider who employs transliterators and what their role is. For the most part, the majority of transliterators are employed by educational agencies so any potential issues could be resolved internally before ever getting to the need for external involvement.

There is Language Matters, Inc (LMI), which serves to train and employ cued language transliterators and sign language interpreters. From time to time, LMI does play a role in helping place CLTs in an educational setting when there is a need for one. Beyond that, LMI offers workshops and administers the Cued Language Transliterator Professional Series (CLTPS), which offers undergraduate and graduate course credits for its training program. To this day, the CLTPS is the only formally accredited preparation program in the entire world for transliterators.

In my opinion, ideally every transliterator should go through the gauntlet of the CLTPS if they want to call themselves a "highly qualified" transliterator who has good marks on both expressive and receptive assessments and strong ethics. It's one thing to be certified, and another thing to be highly qualified.

Regardless of level of qualification, certified transliterators have a responsibility to adhere to the code of conduct they agree to as members of TECUnit. Any violation of that code of conduct needs to be addressed. The issue then is how do we go about addressing these violations. Each situation may be different, and the level of trust between the transliterator and the client may vary. In light of the different circumstances that occur in transliterating, it's important to help both consumers and the service providers be aware of what steps cuers should take to resolve any issues that arise.

Such a community agreement takes time to develop and requires the involvement of multiple parties. Therefore, it's important for the various organizations to collaborate together while including input from the community.

Let the conversation begin now.


Anonymous said...

Do you truly believe that RID will do something about anything? I've heard stories where RID does not do anything in case of gross misconduct. *eye roll*

Jenee said...


Thank you for your long and thoughtful post. These are the discussions we need for the CLT profession to continue advancing. So thank you for your investment and leadership.

I absolutely agree with you that the place for formal grievances and mediation is with the TecUnit. But I also believe in a Social Justice / Ally approach to transliterating, wherein CLTs have a ethical and moral obligation to 'call each other out' on ways in which their work or behavior is oppressive, not up to standard, or otherwise unprofessional. (I don't like the tone of 'call each other out,' and it doesn't capture what I think those dialogues should look like, but I'm at a loss for words this evening.)

As an aside, I am also a certified member of RID and, thankfully, have never had any sort of complaints filed against me and have never gone through any kind of mediation. However, I do know of a few who have and their description of the proceedings are that it's inefficient, ineffective, and under managed. (This is not meant to be a diss on RID.)

The point I'm making is that, it seems to me, within the interpreting community we are still definitely trying to figure out who is responsible for what - even though we have this formal grievance process which is, apparently, transparent.

One place I turn to keep abreast on these conversations is Have any of you visited them? It's a blog site entirely dedicated to sign language interpreting issues; so many of them apply to what we face in the cueing community, as well.

This one is kind of interesting:

I also really like this one:

So anyway... I just appreciate this dialogue. My two cents is that we need to hold each other accountable, and we've got to figure out ways to go about that that build bridges and rapport, rather than tearing each other apart. There's far too few of us to be clawing at each other - we go much farther when we collaborate.

Thanks, Aaron!