Civility matters for ASL interpreters, and everyone else

Published: Friday, Sept. 28 2012 6:00 p.m. MDT

Cindy Volk traveled to the symposium from her home in Tucson, Ariz., where she teaches ASL and deaf studies classes at the University of Arizona. The topic of civility has been on her mind since the tragic shooting of Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford and several others in Tucson, which caused the city's residents to start talking about being kinder, and looking out for each other, Volk said.

"Since the shootings, we are more civil to each other," Volk said. "I've noticed a difference. What happened was horrific on one hand, but on the other hand, it brought about a real change."

Now, Volk wants to bring the discussion of civility into her professional life. She said that being an excellent ASL interpreter depends on more than just technical skills in signing.

"A lot of it is about interpersonal skills," she said. "You're in (a deaf person's) life, many times when they would rather not have someone else there. There are ways to make it easier for everyone."

Anytime people from different cultures interact, there are clashes, said symposium attendee Glenna Ashton, president of the national ASL Teachers Association and a professor at University of Florida.

"When you teach language, you teach culture," Ashton said, through an ASL interpreter. "An interpreter must learn how to interact, and show respect for both cultures. We need to establish that attitude early on, while students are learning the language."

The issues that create challenges to communication are universal, Ashton said, as is the need for civility. Her ideal for all of American society is that people will meet each other with open-minded acceptance and without pre-conceived conceptions.

The conference on civility and leadership is sponsored by Salt Lake City's VRS Interpreting Institute, which provides continuing education for graduates of interpreter education programs and their trainers. The conference began Friday, and runs through Sunday at the Robert G. Sanderson Center of the Deaf.

The VRS Interpreting Institute is a division of Sorenson Communications, a Salt Lake city-based ompany that is the leading provider of video relay systems that enable telephone calls between deaf and hearing people through a link-up with a professional ASL interpreter.

EMAIL: cbaker@deseretnews.com

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