Subject: Dress & qualified interps

Sandra Gish

I am one of those interpreters who advocates plain clothing (contrasting with skin color), solid-color, non-dangling earrings, no patterned scarves to "break up the monotony" or "express my personality," etc. I believe interpreters should wear business attire in business setting, and dress in a style that is compatible with that of the teachers, presenters, office workers, exercise instructors, etc., with whom we work.

I do this because I have been honored with the honesty of some deaf people who say interpreter dress *is* important - and that while it may not matter as much to some deaf people, it matters a whole lot to many deaf people who don't feel as though they can honestly tell interpreters what they prefer or who fear the interpreters' reactions to such a request. (I recently facilitated a workshop for Deaf Community members in another state on how to get what you want from interpreters. Guess what one of the issues was? Yep, dress.)

When I teach, play, party, study, and sleep, I wear - or don't wear (!) - whatever I want because that time is mine. When I'm working, I dress appropriately for the setting out of respect for the consumers involved.

I just went back to my saved messages and retrieved a message that I posted to the list on December 15. At that time, the subject was "Professional Attire."

Here's what I said in December -- and since I still agree with myself, I thought I'd rekindle that deja vu kinda feeling.


I would like to add one thought to the professional dress issue.

I don't know what it's like in other states, but in Minnesota (my home for sixteen years) and in Oregon (starting my can-you-believe-it sixth year here) when Deaf consumers were asked to provide feedback on their intepreters, the number one complaint was about interpreter dress. Again. And again.

I'd really like us to get this one behind us - as a group - so that Deaf people could:

1) have clear access to visual information against the skin-contrasting, plain, non-distracting "background" of our clothing,
2) see that we respect our consumers by dressing in a manner appropriate to the situation,
3) believe that we listen to their feedback by paying attention to our dress, and
4) stop having to focus on dress and feel welcomed to provide other kinds of input about our service.

This is an easy one to accomplish - and if we could do that, we could show consumers that we respect our position in their community and in our profession - and move on to the hard stuff.

Good things *do* come in plain packages -- :)