Examining the Roots of Deaf Interpreter Privilege

Presented By: Anne Leahy PhD
Date/Time: April 12th 9am-12pm MT
Presentation Language: English

Workshop Description:

This workshop demonstrates how the DI role emerged with separate historical foundations from their hearing counterparts through historical evidence. With inspiring accounts about centuries of DIs from documented court cases, participants will recognize themselves as they explore centuries-ago interpreting strategies under pressure in working with deaf witnesses, victims, and defendants – both with and without hearing interpreter teams. 

Deaf interpreters were not begun only in the United States. Though we use different signed languages, we share substantial intersectionality with BSL interpreters, through our common past of older educational and especially legal access in the United Kingdom.

Workshop Objectives:

As a result of attending this workshop, participants will be able to:

  • Re-orient their self-concept to a revised historical perspective, through a brief snapshot of the hearing interpreter role within a 700-year legal framework. We will unpack the impact of that history to the present-day work of DI–HI teams.
  • Describe the development of the deaf interpreter pipeline from sociocultural origins as distinct from the HI pedigree. Early examples of deaf translators, educational intermediaries, and researchers are reclaimed and re-examined as part of the DI DNA.
  • Trace evidence of deaf expert witnesses and interpreters along a timeline that challenges the way we situate ourselves within history today. In particular, the bases of historical DI privilege relative to deaf people they worked with will be deconstructed.
  • Unpack transcripts and other documented accounts of deaf parties interacting with the legal/criminal justice system. 
  • Better articulate the ways DIs have contributed to a safe and culturally affirming experience for centuries.

Presenter Bio:

Anne Leahy, has been a private practice ASL–English interpreter/translator, mentor, and speaker since 1989. Her historical research seeks to understand contemporary issues in the field by tracing the legal and social pedigrees of the signed language interpreting role in both the US and UK. She holds a PhD in Translation Studies from the University of Birmingham (UK), and for several years has taken BSL lessons through a professional tutor.

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