We do not have enough Certified Deaf Interpreters [CDIs] across the nation for our Deaf communities*, particularly in medical, legal, and educational settings. The lack of financial access and location access to live in-person training is one of the many factors that influence the number of qualified Deaf Interpreters. For some, the scheduling of the training is an issue given their family, school, work, and/or personal obligations. One solution for the issue could be online training with intermittent sessions. 

For nine years the National Interpreter Education Center [NIEC] hosted Deaf Interpreter Institute, which was a “learning, sharing, and networking site” for aspiring and current Deaf Interpreters until their permanent and unfortunate closure in September 2016. The NIEC website, however, remains open as an archive and viewers can locate their 2016 edition of the Deaf Interpreter Curriculum for use in interpreter preparation and education programs as well as community-based forums. 

True-Biz ASL announced the start of their Spring 2020 Deaf Interpreter Training Online [DITO] program, which began earlier this month on the 19th, and it is their ninth semester. The DITO program is one of three online training programs offered on their website, and all three programs are spaced out over the course of five months for a total of 40 hours with the objective of having interpreters pass the RID Knowledge Exam and Knowledge Exam. The price tag is $999 for the DITO program with a $99 non-refundable deposit; however, participants are able to arrange monthly payments to afford the tuition.

The DeafBlind Interpreting National Training & Resource Center [DBI], which is part of the Regional Resource Center on Deafness from Western Oregon University, specializes in preparing interpreters for direct work with DeafBlind community members. Online training is offered for free through DBI Moodle, their virtual classroom space, which includes webinars, modules, and other learning resources. The DeafBlind Interpreting Institutes (a separate DBI offering) also includes an eight-week online learning experience, a one-week onsite ProTactile immersion experience, and 10+ hours of applied learning in the participants’ local communities with DeafBlind community members. Those who are interested in the 2020 DBII cohort training need to send in their applications prior to 9 p.m. Pacific Standard Time on Sunday, February 2. 

Generally speaking (this is not in reference to any of the specific programs mentioned above), the idea of online training programs for Deaf interpreters raises some concerns. Is there a national third-party organization that does accreditation for online training programs? The strength of internet signals and video quality are critical for a clear understanding of the content being delivered, so technical difficulties may come up for participants from rural areas. If the online training programs involve live participant discussion, it may be inconvenient for participants to see others’ signed input as the video feed of multiple participants tend to be smaller than the host’s video by default. Attendees miss out on the opportunity of direct immersion with in-person scenarios where they are forced to improvise on the go, which could be critical for doing well on the RID Performance Exam. 

More research is needed to better understand how online training programs address those concerns for aspiring and current Deaf interpreters.