Jun. 19, 2016

Sample Advocacy Letter for Requesting Sign Language Interpreters & Transliterators of Color (2nd ed)

In Spaces Created for Intersectional Folx of Color

This sample letter of advocacy is a work in progress from a culmination of frustrating experiences requesting sign language interpreters of color in spaces created for intersectional folx of color. It also serves to fill in gaps and clarify questions regarding a previous article I posted on June 18, 2016: "Intersectionality Also Matters to Intersectional Signing DDBDDHHLD BIPOCs" (2nd Ed.): http://www.rossanareis.com/414794612/3894291/posting/intersectionality-also-matters-to-intersectional-signing-ddbddhhld-bipocs-2nd-ed.

Please feel free to adapt this letter to your specific needs. If you're interested, please also consider becoming a member of or donating to organizations and projects serving intersectional signing Deaf Black, Indigenous, Folx of Color. My hope is that this would become common knowledge and practice and facilitate more meaningful communication access for intersectional signing Deaf folx of color. 







[Name of Interpreting Agency or

other coordinating entity



Re: Sign Language Interpreters for [name of event, location and date]

The following tenets support our request for provision and payment of Sign Language Interpreters and Transliterators of Color:

1) Nothing About Us Without Us

Tenet 3.1 under the National Association of the Deaf (NAD)-Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID), Inc. Code of Professional Conduct require that interpreters...

"consult with appropriate persons regarding the interpreting situation to determine issues such as placement and adaptations necessary to interpret effectively."

Involvement of intersectional Deaf consumers of color for recommended sign language interpreters of color and language consultation is strongly advised. The following are also some national organizations, which include local chapters serving signing Deaf, DeafBlind, DeafDisabled, Hard of Hearing, Late Deafened (DDBDDHHLD) persons of color but not limited to these:

National Black Deaf Advocates http://www.nbda.org

National Asian Deaf Congress http://www.nadcusa.org

Council de Manos http://www.councildemanos.org (DDBDDHHLD Latinx)

Sacred Circle http://deafnative.com (DDBDDHHLD Native Americans, Alaska Natives, First Nations)

Additionally, RID has specific member sections including one for "Interpreters and Transliterators of Color" (ITOCs) with regional representatives (http://www.rid.org/membership/member-sections/). DDBDDHHLD consumers of color have made their communication access needs known everywhere; thus the reason for this member section. Principle number 7 of ITOCs RID member section delineates involvement of DDBDDHHLD persons of color:

"To actively seek input from consumers of color, particularly, from people who are Deaf/ Hard of Hearing and of color on issues of interpreting/transliterating in their communities."


2) NAD-RID Code of Professional Conduct

Tenet 2 of NAD-RID Code of Professional Conduct requires that…

"Interpreters possess the professional skills and knowledge required for the specific interpreting situation...2.3 Render the message faithfully by conveying the content and spirit of what is being communicated, using language most readily understood by consumers, and correcting errors discreetly and expeditiously. 2.4 Request support (e.g., certified deaf interpreters, team members, language facilitators) when needed to fully convey the message...2.6 Judiciously provide information or referral regarding available interpreting or community resources without infringing upon consumers’ rights."

Interpreting agencies and non interpreters of color are advised to consult signing DDBDDHHLD persons of color, other interpreters of color and provide more appropriate referrals for [name of event, date, location]. This type of event is created for persons of color; hence this event is a cultural, celebratory and healing opportunity for not only hearing persons of color but also DDBDDHHLD persons of color. ASL fluency, certification, and advanced degrees should not be the sole considerations for hiring non-interpreters of color. DDBDDHHLD persons of color not only face barriers to communication access but also to cultural access beyond "Deaf culture and ASL." Interpreting agencies are advised to expand their database to include skills beyond ASL fluency (i.e. other spoken and sign languages, lived experiences, etc.).

Academia, professional development, and social justice consciousness work while helpful need to be backed by lived experiences. Ultimately no amount of degrees or social justice conscious raising education and activities will enable non persons of color ASL interpreters to fully internalize the experiences of oppression black, indigenous, persons of color face, the liberation they experience, multiple and complicated truths and realities they hold and the associated language and linguistic nuances that naturally evolve from these intersecting identities and experiences. Often intersectional presenters and performers of color will infuse native and creolized words/phrases into their presentations and performances. American Sign Language is not the only sign language in the USA. There are Mexican Sign Language, Cuban Sign Language, Plains Sign Language, Chinese Sign Language, [add more here]. An interpreter must be able to understand native and/or creolized words/phrases and interpret into ASL or other sign languages for authentic and meaningful access as well as maintain artistic and presentation integrity of presenters and performers (i.e. interpret from Mexican Spanish to Mexican Sign Language or ASL or from Haitian Creole to Haitian Sign Language or ASL if preferred by consumers). Creolization happened as the result of colonization of peoples of indigenous and African descent by European settlers in North, Central, and South America and the Caribbean (communication with Kari Frances, 4/9/16).


3) Centering Consumers and Applicable laws

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (CRA) of 1964 and its amendments (employment discrimination laws), non-persons of color (white) employees are not a protected group on the basis of "race" in settings, services and events centered on black, indigenous, persons of color. In these situations, hiring interpreters and transliterators of color is often a "business necessity" under CRA of 1964 Title VII--which enables compliance with Titles II and III under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and its amendments. ADA Titles II and III state "primary consideration" shall be given to consumers and "effective communication" shall be determined by consumers.

Being a non-person color with ASL fluency, certification and advanced degrees do not necessarily mean they're "qualified" under ADA Titles II and III; these skills and credentials do not necessarily translate into effective interpreting skills for signing DDBDDHHLD consumers of color. This argument goes back to "effective communication" and "primary consideration" clauses under ADA Titles II and III: "effective communication" shall be determined by consumers. and "primary consideration" shall be given to consumers. The "preferential treatment" argument under CRA Title VII derails and decenters clients/consumers and focuses on the interpreters' needs--in turn, not compliant with ADA Titles II and III. We are not here because of interpreters. They are here because of us.

We sincerely hope you will honor our request for provision and payment for sign language interpreters and transliterators of color. If you have any further questions, please contact [contact name, email, phone #, etc.].


Name or Organization




Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, Inc. NAD-RID Code of Professional Conduct. Retrieved from http://rid.org/ethics/code-of-professional-conduct/ on 5/1/16

Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, Inc. Interpreters and Transliterators of Color Member Section. Retrieved from http://www.rid.org/membership/member-sections/on 5/1/16.

United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division. Effective Communication. Retrieved from http://www.ada.gov/effective-comm.htm on 5/1/16.

United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division. Title VII of Civil Rights Act of 1964. Retrieved from https://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/crt/legacy/2010/12/15/Title_VII_Statute.pdfon 5/1/16.

Note: This 2nd edition relfects minor corrections and updated information to original post dated 5/3/16.


© Rossana Reis, 2016