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Cultural Misconceptions about Deaf People & the Challenge for the Courts: Part 3: Ensuring proper Accommodation In the Courts



Supreme Court of Ohio


This video was developed as a resource for the courts to highlight communication barriers with deaf parties, sign language challenges and the role of interpreters in legal proceedings. The video is presented in three parts: the first part explores language acquisition and the impact of language policy towards the education of deaf people. The second part explores the variable nature of sign language as it is used in the deaf community. And third, the video discusses a number of ways that courts can ensure effective communication with deaf parties by using highly qualified and competent interpreters to allow equal access to justice. Specifically, the topics include:

Part I: Language Acquisition
· Understanding Deafness
· Oral... [ More ]
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00:00:00In this section, we will look at sign language interpreter certification and the unique challenges courts face in ensuring interpreters comply with interpreter standards. This section will also explore techniques to assist courts in making sure effective communication takes place. While there are other accommodations appropriate for non-sign language users in court, this video focuses on the use of American Sign Language and English interpretation as a reasonable accommodation. Certification is also an important factor for interpreters to measure their skills. I heard at some point a number of years ago that the average amount of time from graduation from the interpreter training program to certification, I think it, was seven years. I don't know if that's still the case today, but certainly, there's a wide range-there are interpreters that graduate from an interpreter training program and fairly quickly have the skills to get certified. There are others who work for many many years. So certification is another way to be reassured that the interpreter has met at least a minimum standard. For court work there is highly specialized vocabulary which means...words mean things that they don't mean in other settings, and so understanding the vernacular of the court and...in both languages...again... so I may have an understanding of a term in English that might be used in a courtroom situation, but not know the corresponding term in American Sign Language, or vice versa. Many sign language interpreters learned ASL as adults in post-secondary education programs as a career. Their fluency is directly related to the amount of time and effort spent immersed in the language and culture. For other second language learners, the road to fluency often involves a trip overseas to live in the language and the culture of the land. Deaf-land, however, does not exist. Interpreters for the deaf, who are not born into the language and the culture, must find a community willing to let them in to learn the language and the culture. For some, while they may possess the 'book learning' provided by community college sign language programs, the entry into the community of native learners never happens. As a result there is a wide variety in interpreter's skills as well. Some are good at signing in the English methods, and very few are good at ASL. For the most part, sign language interpreters, now-a-days, are second language learners. And so the challenge for a deaf person working with us often times is making sense out of what we think we're making sense with, but we aren't. So, because it's not my native language, my structures may be acceptable, but not necessarily accurate and so sometimes, the deaf person has to sort of do the work to figure out what it is that I mean. Not all interpreters have the same level of ability in working in to that second language and so for some, the deaf person who's working with them has to do a lot more work than they have to do working with others who are more experienced or simply better language learners. Some interpreters are good at hearing the English and putting the signs into English word order and so that will work for those individuals who are able, much as Libby is, to understand English, but it will not work with a individual who does not have an English language base. Finding the right interpreter is a key for reasonable accommodation and equal access. While there are many types of sign language interpreter certifications, the courts can reference the Supreme Court of Ohio Bench Card, Working with Interpreters for the Deaf or Hard of Hearing Persons in the Courtroom for a quick reference guide to select the interpreter. For a more detailed description of what's mentioned in the bench card, please look at Appendix G of Interpreters in the Judicial System: Handbook for Ohio Judges and you may also visit the interpreters for the deaf web site at RID.ORG Over the years, the names for the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf or RID certificates have changed. The key thing to remember is that the RID has had tests for both ASL interpretation as well as interpretation using signed English, also called transliteration. Currently, there is only one test called the National Interpreting Certificate. This certificate has three levels and holders should be able to work with a variety of deaf people using a variety of methods. A qualified interpreter for court and legal settings must have been tested in interpreting in American Sign Language since that is the majority of the deaf litigants the court will face. The Supreme Court of Ohio recommends that interpreters assigned to court cases hold a Special Certificate: Legal from RID. And if this specialized interpreter cannot be reasonably located, courts may consider candidates with lesser credentials. However, courts may wish to require these candidates to have at least 80 hours of legal interpreter training. In the next scenes, we will look in more detail at these credentials and the associated methods of interpretation. Tell us your name and address for the record. (Signing) My name is Randy Luzzo and my address is 755 3rd street, that's Grandview Ohio 43222. Transliteration attempts to convey the actual words being spoken in English word order. This method does not express the meaning of the words only a code for the words. If the deaf person does not already know English, they will not understand the transliteration. Transliteration generally uses signs from signed English and also the manual alphabet which spells out each letter of the word l-i-k-e-t-h-i-s. The ability to understand fingerspelling is dependent upon one's abilities in written English. Transliteration is thought to be quicker than interpreting because the signer can start almost immediately after the speaker begins the utterance since the interpreter does not have to manipulate the grammar. However, when used with a deaf person who does not understand, it takes far more time, effort and money to go back and repeat the communication than to get it right the first time. Tell us your name and address for the record. (signing) My name is Randy Luzzo and my address is 755 3rd street, and that's Grandview Ohio. The zip code is 43222. Courts like transliteration. It seems faster. It appears as if the interpreter is working verbatim. It fits the paradigm that the deaf person is simply an American who cannot hear. It is effective for about a quarter of Deaf adults, however, in legal settings, the English is unique and most likely outside of the experience-and therefore incomprehensible-to even the quarter of deaf people who might use signed English. It's effectiveness in legal settings is probably minimal. Having an interpreter with the specific certification, SC:L, is paramount to providing appropriate services, particularly because we're talking about a legal situation. The interpreter with an SC:L certification has the background, the vocabulary, the knowledge of the legal system and has trained and passed certain tests. So, that person would be the person, I think, to assess the language of the client and make that determination as to what would be the best language match. It's my personal belief that interpreters who are not certified do not belong in the courtroom. Legal specialist certification requires the completion of three steps. I urge the courts to recognize Certified Deaf Interpreters (CDI's). Use of a CDI is very effective. It's a wonderful way to establish communication with low-verbal deaf individuals. Those people might not understand English or understand signing in English word order. And the way that works is that a hearing interpreter signs in American Sign Language and a certified deaf interpreter takes their message and modifies it so that a deaf person can understand it in a way that makes sense to them- they might incorporate gesture and body language in to their message and make sure the deaf person understands it clearly. Also that deaf person might be signing in a way that the hearing interpreter might not fully be able to understand and so the deaf interpreter takes what they're signing and produces it in a way that the hearing interpreter can understand and the hearing interpreter voices it for the court. It's critical to have certified interpreters for many deaf people here in Ohio. Too often environment, education, and biology conspire against a deaf person and deprive her of the ability to acquire a solid base of language of any kind, be it English or ASL. Recall that when deaf kids of deaf parents were in the classroom, they frequently functioned as secret "interpreters" behind their teacher's backs. This role has been professionalized to what is called "deaf interpreters" whose use is invaluable in the courtroom to ensure the deaf participant is linguistically present. Traditionally, legal settings are the most common venue in which deaf interpreters work. "Who did you see at the scene of the accident?" signing signing "I saw the other driver get out of the car and run between the houses." You can see from the preceding clip, that when a deaf interpreter is present, the process endures a second interpretation. While it may take longer or seem cumbersome, for a substantial portion of deaf people, it is a necessary process if they are to have equal access to justice. Information may be missing from a deaf person's life experience that people who can hear take for granted. There are holes then in the person's real world knowledge. Deaf interpreters are uniquely aware of these gaps and are able to produce comprehensible interpretations despite these gaps. Deaf interpreters in court have been used as long as deaf participants have been in court. The benefit of a deaf interpreter cannot be overstated as they provide the court with a native interpretation that is generally unavailable to even the most talented interpreter who can hear. Because of the unique skills and contribution offered by Deaf interpreters, the RID provides an interpreting test and certification for them. A problem with interpreting, whether it is spoken language or sign, is that the monolingual parties are at the mercy of the interpreter. Not knowing the language, the court has no effective mechanism to gauge the accuracy of the interpretation. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, now is the time when I have the opportunity to explain to you some of your duties as jurors that may seem odd to you. During the trial, there may be times when the attorneys need to discuss a point of evidence with me and we will handle that in one of two ways: either I will excuse you from the room if the conversation appears lengthy, or the attorneys will approach the bench and we will discuss the matter right here if the discussion will not be extensive. If the interpreter appears to be working, then they must be working accurately. The court should disabuse itself of this notion and take steps to minimize problems. Courts should: Voir dire the interpreter to determine skills, knowledge and conflicts of interest. Swear in the interpreter to impress upon them the importance of accurate interpreting Untrained interpreters are poor candidates for court assignments. We cannot emphasize enough the video recording of these proceedings. Taping of the witness' testimony and the interpretation is a good way to provide a record of the original testimony and the interpretation in case disagreements arise regarding the accuracy of the interpretation. Often counsel will hire their own expert sign language interpreter who will sit at counsel table serving in part as a check on the work of the court's interpreter. The table interpreter preserves counsel's ability to object to any misinterpretations in a timely manner for appeal. This interpreter also interprets privileged communications between attorney and client at the table. You should not be surprised when this happens, as it provides and additional guarantee that the interpretation is accurate, and court interpreters are trained to handle this type of monitoring. "What did you see at the scene of the accident?" "I saw the other driver get out of the car and run between the houses." Signing "He's saying no that's not true that's not what happened. I was driving and it was the passenger who got out and ran between the houses. I stayed in the car...that's not what happened." "Okay, I'll ask on cross". "Oh and make sure to ask if he was wearing a coat...ask that okay?" "Okay, tell him I'll ask." Another challenge for courts is what is called the 'deaf nod' which is actually a linguistic feature of ASL discourse. While the interpreter is signing, the deaf person is nodding. This is commonly mistaken as a sign of agreement by non-signers. It is not. It is more accurately interpreted as "Yes, I understand what you are signing" not "Yes, I agree with the content of what you are saying." "Ladies and gentle man of the jury, now is the time when I have the opportunity to explain to you some of your duties as jurors that may seem odd to you. During the trial, there may be times when the attorneys need to discuss a point of evidence with me and we will handle that in one of two ways: either I will excuse you from the room if the conversation appears lengthy, or the attorneys will approach the bench and we will discuss the matter right here if the discussion will not be extensive." Because the majority of people can hear, most of our social structures are designed for hearing people to the point of limiting participation by deaf individuals. In most cases, hearing people heavily influence the way deaf people interact with social structures. As a result, deaf people may feel controlled in many aspects of their lives, particularly in medical, educational and legal settings. Deaf people are always in the minority and often not consulted about their best interest. Because deaf and hard-of-hearing persons have traditionally felt overpowered by people who can hear, they may instinctively accommodate hearing persons. Courts should be aware of this accommodation by deaf people and take the time to test out assumptions. Imagine how lost and frustrated you would feel sitting through a proceeding in which you cannot understand what is being said. What percent of accuracy would you require of your interpreter if you were being tried in a foreign country? Is 50 percent of the information accurately interpreted enough? 70 percent? What percent would be acceptable to you? Since it is unlikely that proceedings in the American judicial system will ever be conducted in ASL, accommodations must be made to ensure the deaf person is linguistically present in court. What did you see at the scene of the accident? I saw the other driver get out of the car and run between the houses. "No, hey that's not true. No, no that's not true. I stayed in the car and it was the passenger who got out and ran away...not me. And also, ask them if the passenger was wearing a jacket...you should ask that. It wasn't me. Don't blame me!" "Ladies and gentlemen, I need to interrupt counsel for a moment as I have just received word that another jury I am hearing has reached a verdict on another case in another courtroom, so I am going to ask for your patience while I take a short recess to receive their verdict and thank them for their service." "All rise. This court is now in recess." Choosing the accommodation may seem difficult but it can be done. Here is what the court can do: The court can understand some of the linguistic issues in a visual language and do its part to ensure that the participants do not misunderstand the nature of ASL interpretation. Finally, the court can implement a set of checks, including videotaping the interpretation and testimony, and allowing an ASL interpreter at counsel table to ensure that counsel is armed with the means to identify inaccurate or unethical interpreting. Armed with these tools, the court will be able to ensure that the deaf citizen has appropriate and complete access to justice. We hope that you have found this video useful and informative. As you have learned, deaf individuals have a variety of communication needs that can be specifically identified by looking at their background, education and linguistic experience of the individual. Even though deaf individuals make up a small number of the total cases, courts are, nevertheless, required to provide people with disabilities equal access to all of their programs, services, and activities. In a broader scope, courts must make reasonable accommodations and modifications to their policies, practices, and procedures where necessary to avoid exclusion. Courts must ensure that communications with parties, witnesses, and jurors with disabilities are as effective as communications with parties, witnesses or jurors who are not disabled. We hope that this video helps you in accomplishing this goal. Thank you for taking part in this training.
Note : Transcripts are compiled from uncorrected captions
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Date : 05-19-2011     View : 3,383 Views     Size : 1.3 GB    
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