First-of-its-Kind Program Trains Deaf Students to Work as Nurse Aides for Deaf Elderly Residents

Doreen Kelly with Mercy Life Students and DCCC InstructorDoreen Kelly with Mercy Life Students and DCCC Instructor

Delaware County Community College, By Lance Knickerbocker: For the first time in Pennsylvania, and possibly in the nation, 13 care providers who are Deaf will become Nurse Aides through a unique collaboration involving Delaware County Community College, Mercy LIFE, the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and South Jersey, and the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

Thanks to a United Way grant, the "Excellence in Care" program enables four Deaf staff members at a time from Mercy LIFE Valley View, first-of-its-kind PACE (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly) program located in a residential facility, to take classes as a small group cohort at the College with the help of two American Sign Language interpreters. After successfully completing the 133-hour program, students will test to be placed on the Pennsylvania Nurse Aide Registry, a requirement for Mercy LIFE Valley View staff.

"The students are excited beyond belief," said Beatrice Agar, the College's nurse aide program coordinator, adding that the program is the first of its kind in Pennsylvania. The first cohort of four students began classes in July.

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Why hire a sign language interpreter?

Sign language interpreting is an effective means of providing access to your business or organization services, events and information. Providing a sign language interpreter saves time, and reduces confusion, liability, and frustration for all parties involved.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) says that a variety of public and private services as well as employers must be accessible to all people, regardless of their disability. When an employer, service provider, government agency or private business is dealing with people who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, or Deaf-Blind, communication with them must be accessible. The best way to ensure quality communication with these individuals is to utilize a professional Interpreter.

A sign language interpreter should be used whenever you want to accurately and efficiently convey information. Examples might be official meetings, social events, disciplinary proceedings, telephone conferences, medical appointments, legal proceedings, and meetings open to the public. Utilizing an interpreter ensures that impartiality and confidentiality while the information is being conveyed. Impartiality and confidentiality allows all parties to participate equally by using their own native language.

How many interpreters are needed for an assignment?

Doreen Kelley

Sign language interpreting is physically and mentally fatiguing for both the interpreter and the client receiver or recipients. Plan for breaks appropriately. Interpreting is a very taxing activity, both mentally and physically. Research has shown that an interpreter's ability to process the message and interpret it accurately diminishes after approximately twenty minutes of interpreting. Effectiveness can be impacted by the content of information as well.

Sign language interpreters have a high rate of repetitive motion. Injuries can result from overuse of the hands. Therefore, when an assignment is over one and a half hours of continuous interpreting, a team of two interpreters will be scheduled.

Two interpreters will work as a team with one always being the support person to "feed" signs to the person actively interpreting. They will switch roles approximately every 20 minutes, to ensure that the message is interpreted accurately for the full length of the assignment. This also gives a break in the effort.

A team of interpreters may also be assigned based on specific needs of an assignment (highly technical or complex subject matter, providing voice interpreting for a deaf presenter using ASL, deaf-blind tactile interpreting, etc.)

Interpreters will interpret EVERYTHING said!

An interpreter will interpret EVERYTHING said. Here are a few do’s and don’ts to consider when working with an interpreter.

1. Avoid discussing subjects you don’t wish the other person to know.

2. Don’t ask the interpreter to omit anything you say.

3. Don’t say something like "Don’t interpret this," because that is exactly what will be interpreted!

4. Don’t ask the interpreter to interject personal opinions or conjecture.

5. Don’t give messages to the interpreter to give to a person not present for later relay to the individual.

6. Do ask for clarification if you are unsure of the appropriate way to proceed in a particular situation.

7. Do recognize that all information discussed is kept confidential.

Tips for using a Sign Language Interpreter

Here are a few simple tips for you to consider and follow when using a sign language interprerer.

1. Always look at the person when signing/speaking to them through an interpreter. Also look at the person who is signing/speaking to you. This may feel awkward at first since the spoken or signed words are coming through your interpreter.

2. Address the deaf person directly. It would be appropriate to say "Where were you born?" You should not say "Ask him where he was born."

3. When possible, please share notes, outlines, or handouts with the interpreter in advance. Interpreters may be coming into your situation with little or no knowledge about what you want to share, your business, and background information will help facilitate communication.

4. If, during the assignment, you plan to turn down the lights for any reason, remember to leave enough lighting on the interpreter so the audience can see them. This may require some kind of auxiliary lighting for the interpreter's position.

5. The interpreter may ask for specific seating/positioning to facilitate the best viewing angles. It is usually best that the deaf consumer can see the interpreter and the presenter in the same field of view without obstructions.

6. Sign or Speak in your normal tone, at a normal pace. The interpreter will inform you if you need to pause or slow down.

7. Sometimes people read aloud at a faster pace than they typically sign or speak. When reading a large amount from written materials, consider providing a copy to the deaf audience members and the interpreter in advance.

8. Remember and be mindful that the interpreter will interpret EVERYTHING said. Avoid discussing subjects you do not want to be public or communicated to your audience.

Someone at your organization knows sign language. Can I have that person interpret for us?

Sign language interpreting is a complex process requiring more than just basic knowledge of sign language and techniques. The process of translating a message from one language to another requires considerable proficiency in both languages, as well as knowing principles of interpreting accurately. In addition, the physical skills and duration may be well beyond the capabilities of most people who know sign language. Professional Interpreters hold certification from national certifying organizations and carry professional liability insurance. In the case someone who knows sign language at your facility, there is no guarantee of quality, accuracy, or confidentiality of information communicated. These are some of the reasons why hiring a professional sign language interpreter may be in your best interest and in the best interest of the audiences you are trying to serve.