Editor’s Note: This article is based on an interview and several e-mail correspondences with Barry Segal, a well known DeafBlind Interpretation instructor who is also DeafBlind. Segal has shared some concerns with Deaf Vee Journal based on some recent occurrences between him and the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf [RID]’s Board of Directors, more specifically Jonathan Webb. All the information displayed below are Segal’s own allegations. The action of posting this article does NOT mean that Deaf Vee Journal confirms or endorses Segal’s allegations. To give a better picture of the whole situation, Deaf Vee Journal intends on doing a separate piece shared with us from RID or CASLI if they decide to respond to this article.
Over the last two and a half years, Barry Segal has been trying to advocate for the DeafBlind community with the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf [RID] and the Center for Assessment of American Sign Language Interpretation [CASLI], on two important separate topics but with overlapping elements: DeafBlind Interpreting certification and standards, and the expertise of the RID’s Ethical Practices System [EPS] on DeafBlind customers’ complaints against interpreters. Due to the complexity of Segal’s story, Deaf Vee Journal may be doing a multi-part series.
As a DeafBlind instructor in DeafBlind interpreting courses, concerns about RID and their standards were brought to Segal’s attention that there was no DeafBlind Interpreter certification or training requirements set forth by RID for their certifying body, CASLI.
Segal asserts that a trend was, and still is, happening: more and more Certified Deaf Interpreters [CDIs] misrepresenting themselves as experienced DeafBlind interpreters based on his own prior interactions with them. With this concern, it was in early July 2018 when Segal reached out to CASLI and RID via separate e-mails, and he had a videophone call with Branton Stewart, a Member at Large with RID, two months later after his initial attempts of contact.
During the call, Segal shared with Stewart that Melvin Walker (the President of RID at the time) told him it was not necessary to be concerned about DeafBlind Interpreting, which also was not within RID’s scope of focus; Stewart allegedly had a similar response and “blew off” Segal. Segal added that both Walker and Stewart disagreed with him, commenting that hearing interpreters and CDIs do not need to take DeafBlind Interpreting courses or trainings, or be certified in DeafBlind Interpreting. Segal was dissatisfied with Walker’s and Stewart’s answers, and, since RID’s CEO position was vacant at the time, he resolved to contact the incoming CEO about this concern.
Meanwhile, in September 2018, Segal attended a medical appointment and the interpreter assigned to his appointment, who was supposedly RID certified, allegedly misrepresented herself as an experienced DeafBlind interpreter. Outraged, Segal initiated a EPS filing the same month and to his dismay, he encountered several barriers, including the visual and linguistic inaccessibility of the EPS webpage. Not only did the signer featured in the EPS vlogs not have the proper color for both their shirt and the background, but the signer’s pace also was not slow enough for him. To add insult to injury, Segal states he received backlash for filing the EPS complaint against the interpreter from the interpreting agency that assigned the interpreter to his appointment.
Segal contacted Tressela Bateson, who was (and still is) the main point of contact for RID’s Ethical Practices System [EPS], to request for large print text accommodations and received no response. Segal also states that the reading material was difficult for a person with language dysfluency who needs things simplified. “All of the materials were way more advanced, like a lawyer’s level of reading. I tried to read and understand the materials and only a few I understood, others I was unable to understand,” said Segal in an email correspondence with Deaf Vee Journal.
As Segal monitored the progression of his EPS complaint, it was announced in Spring 2019 that Charity Reedy Warigon would be the Interim CEO of RID.
Segal contacted Warigon by e-mail about his concerns in regard to the lack of DeafBlind Interpreting certification and standards as well as the barriers he was experiencing with the EPS department, and he received a quick response from Warigon. Conversations were had about Segal possibly contributing to RID in several ways, including a potential committee. Elijah Sow, the Chief Operating Officer [COO] of RID, was allegedly CC’d on all email correspondence between Segal and Warigon, and the conversations went on for several months.
During those discussions, clarification was shared that RID and CASLI are two completely separate organizations; however, RID’s Board of Directors do appoint CASLI’s Managers. CASLI was established as of July 2016 to serve as a standalone entity responsible for the development, administration, and maintenance for two certification programs: the National Interpreter Certification [NIC] and the Certified Deaf Interpreter [CDI].
Warigon introduced Segal to CASLI President Miako Villaneuva in December 2019, to determine how DeafBlind Interpreting can be a priority for CASLI (Segal claims Warigon’s introductory email also CC’d Sow), and Villaneuva agreed to meet with Segal for a phone call the following February.
Back to Segal’s EPS case. It was Fall 2019, a year later after his initial filing, when EPS staff contacted Segal for an update, suggesting meditation as a possible resolution method. In response, Segal requested for the adjudicators to be familiar and knowledgeable about DeafBlind Interpreting and DeafBlind Interpreter standards. For unknown reasons the EPS staff did not oblige with Segal’s request, and Segal believes it played a critical role in the interpreter’s refusal for meditation and the February 2020 dismissal of his case. Ever since the dismissal of his case, Segal stated he became very aware that his concerns of RID practicing audividism was indeed true.
As due diligence, Segal got the EPS adjudicators’ names and researched their background–he discovered that none of them were DeafBlind Interpreters or had any training on DeafBlind Interpreting. Segal had the right to an appeal and wanted to appeal, and so he sent off an email request for an appeal on February 4, 2020. Segal alleges he received no response from Bateson or Sow.
Five days after Segal submitted his appeal request on his EPS case, he had the phone meeting with Villaneuva. According to Segal, he and Villaneuva discussed the idea about establishing a DeafBlind Interpreter Screening & Exam Certification Committee and agreed to continue this discussion about the Committee (i.e., recruiting DeafBlind interpreters and DeafBlind community members for the Committee) in August, after the completion of Beta Knowledge and Performance Exams.
Frustrated with the lack of satisfactory progress in his ordeal with RID, Segal sent President/CEO Jonathan Webb a self-introductory email in June 2020 that included his concerns. A month would pass before Webb responded with the sentiment that he was not aware of what was going on as Sow and Warigon had not shared any details with him. Segal forwarded Webb several email threads as proof.
Segal reached out to Villaneuva again at the end of July in preparation for the August phone meeting, only to receive no response. Segal states he spent several weeks sending phone calls, emails, text messages to Villaneuva, and nothing. It was late August when Villaneuva answered, explaining that the meeting had to be postponed due to the COVID-19 disruption of the Beta Knowledge and Performance exams. Segal and Villaneuva agreed to revisit the Committee discussion in November.
It was around August/September 2020 when Adam Sommers connected with Segal per Webb’s request. Webb and Segal had been in discussion about his concerns about the DeafBlind Interpreter training or lacktherof within RID’s standards for their interpreters. Segal claims that Sommers offered him to work with the RID Board of Directors by becoming a member of their Board. In a later conversation, Segal was referred to work with LaTanya, a Member at Large who oversaw the DeafBlind Member Section [DBMS], which is a special interest group [SIG] within RID. DBMS focuses on the needs for DeafBlind Interpreting, and yet it has no direct impact on RID itself as a whole organization. Segal was told he would be the President of DBMS and that his responsibility would be to resurrect the activity of the DBMS, which is not the same role or level of impact as being on the RID Board of Directors.
Confused, Segal connected with Joan Pellerin to verify the claim that the DBMS is inactive. Pellerin clarified with Segal and let him know that this was not true: there were indeed some members who had been inactive, yes, but Pellerin herself was still very much an active member and working on DBMS tasks. Segal suggested that a DeafBlind Advisory Council be set up instead, and Pellerin agreed it was a great idea.
Once Segal saw there was no need for him to “retrieve” the DBMS, he backtracked to notify Sommers and LaTanya of this and shared Pellerin’s suggestion of a DeafBlind Advisory Council, only to be told “no.” Segal tried circling back to Villaneuva, once again to prepare for their upcoming November meeting, and received no response. Villaneuva would respond four months later, and nothing would come of it.
2020 was drawing to a close, and Segal was exasperated.
And then Webb approached Segal about establishing a DeafBlind Task Force Team to help RID’s Board of Directors find a good direction in addressing some of the pressing issues that Segal noticed over the years. Although Segal says he preferred the DeafBlind Advisory Council and Webb insisted on the establishment of the DeafBlind Task Force Team first prior to forming the DeafBlind Advisory Council, Segal was cautiously optimistic. Segal states that Webb not only informed Segal that he would be the Chairperson of the DeafBlind Task Force, he also asked Segal to provide several names of DeafBlind individuals he thought should serve on the Task Force and a list of items Segal himself believed RID needed to improve on.
After going back and forth in email for a few weeks, Segal was informed that he would connect with Krystal Sanders, who was the Board Liaison and the Region V Representative for the RID Board of Directors, and Carla Morris. Sanders stated that the DeafBlind Task Force team must have five DeafBlind individuals and two interpreters. Apparently, Sanders and Morris were to oversee the Task Force, and Segal was confused as to why that would be necessary if Segal was to be the Chairperson for the Task Force.
The idea of a hearing person and a sighted Deaf person overseeing a DeafBlind Task Force didn’t sit right with Segal. Moreover, Sanders was not able to reassure him that she had adequate training in DeafBlind Interpreting. Segal was concerned about the possibility of being subjected to distantism again, so he paid close attention to the language he was being exposed to and continued to be in contact with Webb. Segal alleges that Sanders and Morris took over his responsibilities in deciding who to invite for the DeafBlind Task Force, also neglecting to tell him who the invitees were.
It was the first week of April when Segal followed up with some DeafBlind individuals whose names he had provided to Webb for invitation onto the DeafBlind Task Force; all of them told Segal they had not heard from any RID representative.
Webb then requested a videophone meeting with Segal on April 9. During this meeting, Segal was informed that Webb and Sanders saw some online comments Segal made in regard to an individual who happened to be Black. Segal told Webb that he was concerned because the individual in question was misrepresenting themselves as a DeafBlind interpreter and this was a conversation in a closed DeafBlind group on Facebook.
Four days later, Segal received an email from Sanders informing him that he was no longer a part of the DeafBlind Task Force. Segal believes that his personal perspective on the authenticity and integrity behind the alleged interpreter’s behavior contributed to his abrupt and unjust removal from the RID DeafBlind Task Force Team. Even now, Segal does not know who the new DeafBlind Task Force Team members are.
Two and half years, close to three years, had passed ever since Segal’s first contact with RID and CASLI in terms of advocacy for DeafBlind Interpreting with nothing to show for it.
Segal’s EPS complaint was dismissed with no response to his appeal. The DeafBlind Interpreter Screening & Exam Certification Committee has yet to form through CASLI. Segal was ousted from the DeafBlind Task Force, and he is concerned the Task Force will be stacked with sighted and hearing members who do not have expertise in DeafBlind Interpreting whatsoever. Segal claims that Webb should not be RID’s CEO/President due to his oppressive behaviors. Furthermore, Segal argues that his potential contributions to the field of DeafBlind Interpreting on a nationwide scale for RID and CASLI were largely stifled by distantism and audividism.