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Document, Document, Document

Posted Nov 04 2009 10:02pm 1 Comment

As the Deaf Community continues to struggle for equal communication access, we’ve embraced the power of the Internet and have used it to our advantage. This is a terrific thing, but to ensure we win battles in our struggle, we need to document incidents in formal written documents. Many of us, understandably, feel awkward with writing formal letters documenting what took place. For this reason, I am going to share the letter I just sent to the Duncan Wyeth, the director of Michigan Commission on Disability Concerns regarding the DODHH Advisory Council meeting on May 2, 2008.

One thing I need to mention before I put in my letter here – we have great news, which I did not discuss in my letter. Duncan Wyeth announced that the state will begin searching for a replacement to fill the executive director position at DODHH! So all of the hard work by the Deaf Community paid off! As soon it is official and a job posting is available, I will blog it. And if anyone’s interested right now, before it’s official, let me know and I will point you to the right person to talk and keep in contact with.

Regarding this letter I wrote, some people may be wondering why this is important to do. The reason why people need to write letters is because if a person has a problem and the person doesn’t put it in writing, the problem does not exist. Letters like this can be used as evidence in court and so on, whereas it is very difficult to get verbal communication admitted. So it is very important when someone has a problem and gets blown off, like I did at the Advisory Council meeting, to document it. And now, here’s the letter. I hope this will give people an idea how to proceed with situations like this.


Dear Mr. Wyeth:

I am writing to express my dissatisfaction with the response I received to my public comment regarding the Quality Assurance program at the Division of Deafness and Hard of Hearing’s [DODHH] Advisory Council meeting on May 2, 2008. As I stated at the meeting, I am Deaf and a student at Grand Valley State University, majoring in Public and Nonprofit Administration. This past winter semester, I was assigned an interpreter for the deaf who holds a QA II. However, I observed the interpreter making numerous errors that a QA II interpreter should not be making. As a member of the Deaf Community here in Michigan, I expect that interpreters rated at QA II will not commit semantic errors such as interpreting the phrase “roll call” so as to render it nonsensical, signing “role summon.” If an interpreter makes such basic errors like this, then she is obviously unable to faithfully interpret at any level. If this basic error had been interpreted to a Deaf persons whose English is weak, in all likelihood they would not have been able to understand what was truly being said.

This by itself would not greatly concern me. However, I have been noticing that this is not an isolated incident and in fact, I am seeing interpreters new to the field holding QA ratings that are not congruent with their skills. These multiple incidents have led me to question the integrity of the QA testing process. I am not alone in questioning the integrity of the QA system as evidenced by other Deaf individuals’ remarks at the meeting. The majority of those who made comments expressed identical concerns and requested an explanation to account for the changes we are recently seeing. One woman in particular, Sheila (last name unknown to me) stated that she was noticing inexperienced interpreters receiving QA IIIs, and experienced interpreters failing or receiving QA Is. She was visibly upset about this, and asked a very legitimate question, “Why is this happening? It should be the other way around.”

DODHH’s response was dismissive to all of us who expressed our concerns about this matter, and this has prompted me to write this letter. I am disturbed in particular by the state interpreter coordinator’s response to our very serious concerns. The only response made was that the QA testing process had not changed, but remains the same as it has always been. There was no acknowledgment that our concerns have any basis, nor were we given any assurances that our concerns would be investigated and appropriate corrections made. Perhaps most disturbing of all was the attitude from DODHH that indicated a clear lack of genuine interest in what to us, the people whom it is DODHH’s mission to serve, is a very serious matter. DODHH’s response is not sufficient, and does not account for the widespread dissatisfaction and concerns about the recent spate of inadequate interpreters now holding credentials unwarranted by their skill levels.

This only reinforces my suspicion that something has changed within the QA testing process, and gives me the impression that DODHH, for some unknown reason, does not want to investigate and correct. This greatly perplexes and disturbs me. Prior to Chris Hunter’s retirement, DODHH had an outstanding reputation of advocacy and ensuring that only properly skilled interpreters received Michigan Quality Assurance ratings. It is disheartening to see that this seems no longer to be the case.

I would like to see the DODHH investigate this matter and provide its constituents with the reason of the cause for this now unreliable credentialing process, with a firm commitment to correct it immediately.

Thank you for your time and attention to this matter. I look forward to a response soon.


Jeannette K. Johnson

cc: Andrew Levin

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