Interview with an ASL Interpreter in Barbados
Why are you an ASL Interpreter?
I am an ASL Interpreter because Sign Language has always been my passion since I was 6 years old when I first saw it demonstrated by Linda on Sesame Street. I was fascinated that this lady was using her hands to say something and this guy (Bob), was giving voice to that. In my mind there was nothing more fascinating than this and this became my sole reason for watching the show. The following year my aunt invited me to a church that had a Deaf Ministry where I got to see what I would learn were interpreters and Deaf people for the first time. It is at this church that I completed courses in Beginners, Intermediate and Advanced sign language classes, and by 12, was on the platform interpreting the songs for worship in the morning service.
At that age I didn't know that there was a job called "Interpreter" and so never even considered it as a profession. So when one of my pastors called me at home and said he heard of a scholarship opportunity to study Interpreter Training in the US, I wasn't at all interested. I had just completed secondary school with my secretarial qualifications and was looking for a job. I still applied because I honestly thought I wouldn't receive it since only one person from the eastern Caribbean could receive this scholarship. To make a long story short.......I got the scholarship and in a matter of about 3 weeks I was on a plane to study Interpreting. It changed my life. I saw Deaf people in classes at the college with their interpreters and saw them being treated as equals in every facet of life. I knew then that there was nothing else I wanted to do. Everything inside of me started connecting the dots from a 6 year old girl to that very time. I wanted to be an interpreter and nothing else. If I could give voice to hands......just like Bob.......and be part of a "movement" which would allow the Deaf to be included and to have access to everything from education to medical and social services, just like everybody else, then that is what I would do for the rest of my life.......and continue to do so. In my eyes.....there is no greater profession.
How and where did you study?
I studied Interpreter Training at Mount Aloysius College in Cresson, PA, USA where I received my Associate of Arts Degree. Tell us a bit about what you provide on the island of Barbados
I provide interpreting services in every possible sphere in society which includes judicial, educational, social and medical. I work for both government and private entities. I also teach Sign Language classes. Can you tell us about the Bajan Deaf community?
My Bajan Deaf community is not much different from the average Deaf community around the world. They continue to fight for equality everyday of their lives. They want an education so that they would have equal opportunities just like their hearing counterparts. Their education level is very basic so acquiring a job is very difficult as they leave school without certification. However, even in the face of adversity they continue to fight. I believe in the near future the masses will hear them! Apart from that........they are a very welcoming community and enjoy and appreciate when persons take that step in trying to learn sign language so they can better communicate with them. What are some of your plans for supporting the Bajan Deaf community in the future?
I will soon be making sign language a "movement" on the island. It needs to be taught at every level including the schools and the business community. Businesses need to understand that their portfolio is enhanced when they are able to better serve the community at large and the Deaf community is no different. When you educate children then this reduces or eliminates biases and discrimination since they are future adults. Also making sure that Interpreting services is offered to the Deaf community at various levels is very important. Access is a priority. When we treat all our citizens as "whole", then we become a better functioning society.