A note from the Editor in Chief: We have a new follow-up article published. Guess who RID’s new CEO is? Read it here (click on it). A second follow-up article is in the works.

Deaf Vee Journal has learned of two different ongoing instances of audism at the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf [RID], and it is only a partial description of what is going on. 

According to the RID, Deaf Interpreters [DIs] are necessary and should be required at public press briefings for Deaf community members to be able to follow what is happening in our nation, our state, our county, and our local areas. For years, a discussion has occurred on how to use DIs and more recently, a dialogue emerged on information access during election years. RID released a formal position statement, CDIs at Press Conferences, stating the following: “Because qualified and Certified Deaf Interpreters [CDIs] can meet the diverse needs linguistically of a broader array of the Deaf Community, it is crucial to consistently incorporate a Deaf interpreter when providing interpreting services for press conferences.”

How does it work, exactly? The hearing interpreter is off-camera, either in the audience or shown in a live stream video, feeding the Deaf interpreter information from the hearing speaker. The Deaf interpreter stands on stage where the audience has a good line of sight and also is seen in-frame on the camera for television. As a native signer, the Deaf interpreter paints a more clear picture from a conceptual perspective and this reaches a wider audience as opposed to if the hearing interpreter was on stage.

A few CDIs noticed that particular RID employees and/or Board members are accepting assignments where a CDI is not present at the press conferences–this sends a message that the said employee/Board member thinks this is acceptable, which is in direct contradiction to RID’s position statement cited above. It is also, in fact, audist. One instance is Kamala Harris’ September 15 live Facebook video of presidential candidate Joe Biden’s presentation with RID President Jonathan Webb, interpreting on screen (view the video here).

Two weeks earlier, Regan Thibodeau posted a vlog (transcript also available) on Facebook where she expresses her concerns about hearing interpreters acting as gatekeepers in respect to deciding whether a CDI is needed for the assignment and how the Code of Professional Conduct [CDC] would apply, such as the Biden/Harris presidential campaign presentation 

Thibodeau’s central argument is focused on the role of American Sign Language [ASL] interpreters on television at press briefings. When a Deaf or hard of hearing person is able to read and understand the closed captions, they already are receiving the information access they need. If the Deaf or hard of hearing person’s native language is ASL and English is their second language, the only way the person is able to have information access is if the press briefing includes in-frame DIs on the screen. 

Interpreting agencies with city, county, state, or federal contracts are not keeping this in mind and Thibodeau emphasizes her belief that this is a direct CPC violation because it is taking away the opportunity for Deaf persons who are ASL users to have information access and make decisions for themselves. 

Concerns of audism with RID is not a new issue. Ritchie Bryant, a Black CDI who also has served as a RID Board member for one term from 2015 to 2017, produced a September 17 vlog where he alleges other instances of audist behavior occurring at RID: 

  • Pamela Lloyd-Ogoke was mistreated during the application process for a RID position, and this process was very different from years past based on his experience and knowledge of RID as an institution; and
  • The RID has been quiet since their November 5, 2019 community update about their search for a Chief Executive Officer [CEO] and a formal announcement has not been made yet. RID’s decision to remain silent about this is audist, as the transparency of information is no longer there for the Deaf community. 

It undoes all the work that Charity Warigon has put in over the past year, in an attempt to provide more transparency in the RID CEO search process. Warigon produced frequent community updates for the entire duration of her eight-month appointment (April-December 2019). Webb was appointed as the President of the RID Board as of July 2019. Two months later, it was made clear that the announcement of the new CEO would occur by November 15, 2019 (of which has not happened, according to Bryant’s vlog). It has been confirmed that there were several final recommendations for the CEO pick submitted to the RID Board. 

In between late October and early November, there was a password-protected message from Webb to three entities: the MS Chairs and the AC Chairs, Deaf organizations (we do not know which organizations at this time), and the Search Committee (screenshots shown below).

It seems that close to the end, the Board decided to change the procedure and keep everything internal for the time being.  This is not the first time that the RID’s search process for a CEO has been botched, which has occurred in recent years. This is an ongoing investigation. If anyone would like to share information, please contact us on Facebook or e-mail us at [email protected].