Helen Keller once said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
Never has a statement held more weight than when taking stock of the significant collaboration behind the establishment of an Interpreter Training Program - a program a quarter-century in the making.
According to the 1995 U.S. Census and Gallaudet University, close to 218,000 Alabamians have difficulty hearing or cannot hear a normal conversation. Many may utilize American Sign Language (ASL) as their primary means of communication. Yet in Alabama and across the nation, there is a shortage of licensed and permitted interpreters/transliterators.
This state and national crisis was the catalyst for statewide action and alliance.
A 2005 U.S. Department of Education Rehabilitation Services Award and 2008 U.S. Department of Education Fund for the Improvement of Secondary Education Award, facilitated by Senator Richard Shelby and Congressman Mike Rogers, respectively, laid the groundwork for a statewide interpreter training program.
Like any worthwhile initiative, multiple statewide agencies and consumer groups supported these awards and the eventual establishment of a full-fledged Interpreter Training Program through a combination of resources, resolve and resilience. These agencies included: Alabama Association of the Deaf (AAD), Alabama Licensure Board for Interpreters and Transliterators (ALBIT), Alabama Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (ALRID), Alabama Department of Mental Health (ADMH) Office of Deaf Services, Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services (ADRS), Alabama State Department of Education, Council of Organizations Serving Deaf Alabamians (COSDA), and Troy University.
With this unprecedented support and Congressional funding, AIDB has developed an extensive technological infrastructure to support statewide interpreter training workshops and community ASL classes and the Troy University Interpreter Training Program, which offers individuals the opportunity to obtain an interpreting bachelor’s degree.
Now, from North Alabama to South Alabama, AIDB offers community classes, workshops and general resource information for beginning to advanced interpreters. Individuals can also take the Sign Language Proficiency Interview (SLPI) at various AIDB sites and can sit for the National Association of the Deaf-Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf written and performance examinations within AIDB’s E.H. Gentry Facility (Contact: Rann Gordon, AIDB Director of Deaf Services) and AIDB Mobile Regional Center (Contact: Lisa Gould, AIDB Mobile Interpreter Services Coordinator add email link under name).
If you have an interest in ASL or in becoming an ASL interpreter, explore the information below. You are a significant partner in sustaining Interpreter Training in Alabama. Thank you.
Call Out: Interpreting, as a profession, facilitates communication between individuals who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing using American Sign Language (ASL) or a form of visual language and spoken English Troy University Interpreter Training
“AIDB’s quest for an Alabama Interpreter Training Program began more than 25 years ago. It is gratifying to not only have an Interpreter Training Program in Alabama, but to be an integral component. AIDB will do everything possible to assist Troy University - whether in a small way or a large way, AIDB desires to be a part of keeping this initiative alive.”
- Former AIDB President Terry Graham, Ed.D.
A Distinct Partnership:
“I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.” - Helen Keller
The Troy University Interpreter Training Program (ITP) is a four-year Bachelor’s of Science degree program that offers students an opportunity to pursue a career in interpreting.
ITP courses can be taken either on-campus, online, or a combination of the two. On-campus courses offer a classroom setting in addition to a language lab that utilizes video cameras, videophones, DVD players, and computers. This lab affords students the opportunity to develop and practice American Sign Language (ASL) skills as well as ASL-to-English and English-to-ASL interpreting. Troy University’s distance learning program, eCampus, offers the ITP online to allow students to receive the same benefits of the program as students attending on-campus at Troy. Currently, Troy University is the only university in Alabama to offer a Bachelor’s degree in Interpreting.
To participate in Troy University’s on-campus/on-line programs, a Sign Language Proficiency Interview (SLPI) is required with The Alabama Department of Mental Health, Office of Deaf Services coordinating SLPI testing. Please contact Shannon Reese (link) for testing dates and a testing location nearest you. Additionally, a faculty member’s recommendation and a GPA of 2.75 or higher are required. Click here for the full listing of requirements.
Troy University ITP Partners/Sponsors include: AIDB; Alabama Department of Mental Health; Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services (add link), Alabama Dual Party Relay Board (add link) and Alabama State Department of Education.
Note: Troy University ITP does not certify interpreters, but prepares them to sit for the exams. For additional information, go to the National Association of the Deaf (NAD)-Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) Certification. AIDB has established NAD-RID Supersites within its E.H. Gentry Facility (Contact: Rann Gordon, AIDB Director of Deaf Services) and AIDB Mobile Regional Center (Contact: Lisa Gould, AIDB Mobile Interpreter Services Coordinator add email link under name).
AIDB Statewide Community American Sign Language Classes
Also referred to as ASL, American Sign Language is a visual/gestural language with vocabulary, grammar, idioms, and syntax different from English. ASL is the language of the deaf community in the United States and Canada (except Quebec)—a cultural group of people who share a common language, values, attitudes, and experiences.
“I would tell beginning interpreters to really do some self-study - to figure out what kind of person they are and where they think they would want to work. I know this really helped me when I was starting out. I knew I wanted to experience diversity, work with adults, and have new situations/settings daily. Knowing that was what I wanted, I then knew that I would want to work in the community. Of course, I would also suggest not to be close-minded either - go out and get a "taste" of all different settings in their practicum. They may surprise themselves in where they think they would prefer to work.
“I would also greatly encourage new interpreters to continue to go to deaf functions, continue to learn and improve their ASL skills (this never stops!) and to get involved in the professional organizations. I know for me, personally, that is how I got to know people all over the state. As soon as I graduated from my ITP, I took national testing and got a job immediately. I also joined ALRID and went to the board meetings, which eventually led to me being on the board. Getting involved in the organizations helps you find mentors who can help you in so many different areas. Also - volunteer your time to help out a committee or whatever appeals to you! It is so worth it and very rewarding
“And lastly, I would say to them to never stop learning! This profession is one that is always changing and growing. GO to workshops! Travel to them - it is more than just the workshop material that you will learn. You will make friends, gain mentors, network and also improve your skills!” - Lisa Gould, RID CI & CT, MH Q
Tips from the Pros
To become an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter in either the education, legal, medical or mental health fields, attempt to immerse yourself in Deaf Culture. Gallaudet University provides substantial information and resources on Deaf Culture and its correlation to understanding and utilizing ASL.
In Their Own Words
“As a CODA, Child of Deaf Adults, born into a large deaf family, my sister and I, along with a hearing stepbrother and cousins, were the only hearing people in our immediate family with which we associated. Many times interpreters would say how “lucky” I was to be born into a deaf family whereby ASL was my first language. Being born into a deaf family or having ASL as a first language does not guarantee success as an interpreter as my relatives would testify. Nor does this birthright guarantee an understanding of Deaf Culture
“A person seeking to join the interpreting field must master both language and culture together before beginning to study the craft of interpreting. For these reasons, I am pleased for the grant and partnership with Troy University to provide quality training in the language, the culture and the interpreting process
“For more than 15 years, I have wanted a college-level training available in ASL/English interpreting and am glad I lived to see it to fruition. Yes, I learned my craft through my family, but also through scattered formal training opportunities, as well as from the deaf community. I had mentors and advocates who helped me through this learning process to certifications. Some of the biggest challenges I faced in becoming a qualified interpreter have now been removed with the training now offered at Troy University.
“But not everyone who goes through this training, just as not everyone born into the language and culture of the deaf community or another community with a distinct language and culture, becomes a qualified interpreter. Yes, the advantages are present, and because of the training we will see an increase in the quantity of interpreters as well as an increase in the qualifications of interpreters. But the quality of service depends upon the person providing the service.
“To students of interpreting, I would advise to constantly ask of themselves, “Whose needs are being met?” If the interpreter is proving a service and not just “helping” the deaf community, then the interpreter is on the path to assisting the deaf community to self direction and self empowerment.” - Sue Scott, BA, CSC, CI, CT, NAD V
“Beginning interpreters should know that interpreting is not a one-size-fits-all field. Nothing angers me more than being assigned to an interpreter that waters-down what people are saying (whether it be a doctor, a speaker, or any other professional). An interpreter needs to be able to determine within the first five (5) minutes, the type of communication method that their client prefers, and go from there.” - Kim Moon, Alabama School for the Deaf Librarian
Support Interpreter Training
“True happiness... is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.” - Helen Keller
"Through extensive collaboration, it is now possible for people to access multiple forms of interpreter training from nine AIDB sites connected to Troy University. Both AIDB and Troy University are fortunate to have full support of a broad network of statewide agencies and consumer groups which extend to the national level. For these professional development opportunities to continue and new interpreters to enter into the field, we will need financial support from multiple revenue sources. We appeal to you to assist.” - John Mascia, Au.D., CCC-A; AIDB Interim Vice President-Adult Programs
If interested in sponsoring an Interpreter Training workshop or sponsoring an American Sign Language class in your community, please contact the AIDB Foundation at 256.761.3206.