2.1 Should I accept a Jewish assignment?
When you are first approached to interpret in a Jewish setting, this may be your first time. Should you accept? There are not many interpreters that are experienced and knowledgeable about this topic and so there is always a search for new blood. If you think you are willing to learn how, you should take into consideration a number of things. Is there someone more qualified than you who can do this assignment? If there is, but they are not available at that time, perhaps they would be willing to help you prepare, either briefly for this assignment or mentor you in general. You might be able to barter with this interpreter by helping them with professional development projects or in some other way so that s/he does not have to do it as tzedakah [charity].
The Deaf consumer might be willing to help you prepare, especially if you commit to doing Jewish assignments with some regularity. Here again some bartering might be involved, such as occasionally interpreting something for free when there are no funds available to pay you. If you get the sense that there is no other interpreter more qualified to do this assignment, and that the Deaf and hearing consumers and agency are aware of your lack of background but accept it, you can accept the assignment and do some preparation.
Just because an assignment involves Jewish topics, does not mean that it will be overwhelming. You have probably done some such topics before, such as bits of Jewish history or a comparative religion class that covers Judaism. I am a firm believer in preparation for any setting, but we have to budget our time and energy. If you plan to develop your Jewish awareness to be ready for a series of Jewish settings, then it is worth making a plan of work. This chapter will assist you in that endeavor.
Sometimes we can't speak to the Deaf consumer/s to determine their background and what their goals are in this setting, but we should make an attempt to determine it in person, through video relay, e-mail, etc. This is helpful for any assignment, and there are even more reasons in a Jewish setting. As we have discussed in Chapter 1, Jewish Deaf people often have not had an opportunity to learn about Jewish life, even from their parents, so expanding on concepts in a Jewish setting can bring consumers up to speed. Knowing their background will help you determine to what extend expansion is necessary. It is not unusual to have Gentile Deaf people at a bar/bat-mitzvah. There is no reason to assume that they will be familiar with the service, so here is a prime example of where expansion would lead to an optimal experience.
You need to know how the Deaf congregants will participate in the service. Hearing congregants pray and sing out loud, but Deaf congregants watch the interpreter and usually don’t copy what they see. It is great if Deaf people can actively participated instead of being observers. Everyone is there to pray, but there are also kibbudim [honors] that are bestowed on people, such as opening the ark, blessing the Torah, and lifting or tying up the scroll. Especially if there will be a bar/bat mitzvah, Deaf people may be called upon to do these kibbudim, so you will need to know how to spell their English and Hebrew name, adjust your placement if there is more than one Deaf person that needs to see you, and if they are giving a speech, get a copy of it to help prepare. You will find more details about bnei mitzvah [the plural of bar/bat mitzvah] in the chapter on rites of passage.
2.2.1 Interpreting as avodah
Consider also how you the interpreter will participate. If you are a practicing Jew, do you feel that your interpreting the service is fulfilling your need to worship as well? There will be an opportunity for private prayer during the Shmoneh Esreh, but most of the time you will be interpreting what is happening. If you feel that you will miss your chance at worship, perhaps interpreting a service is not for you, although you are extremely qualified through religious observance.
The Hebrew term avodah, means "worship" or "service" as in "service work". It is related to the word eved, which means "servant" or "slave". As interpreters, we are used to the concept of finding it difficult to find one English word to translate a sign in general or vice versa. You will encounter this with sign choice in ASL. For example, Orthodox Jews feel odd using the English term "God" when they are used to saying HaShem. In a similar way, Deaf Jews and interpreters may not wish to sign the standard ASL sign for "God" and use a sweep of the upturned palm held high as an honorific index. People used to think of their work as a vocation, meaning a "calling" as if God called them to do their work. In a similar way I feel that interpreting is an avodah, even when I am not interpreting something Jewish.
I am no longer an Orthodox Jew, but I thrive on interpreting Jewish topics. I studied in a yeshivah, which is a rabbinical college, but many Jews study in this way because they love HaShem [God] and his mitzvah ["commandment"] to study Torah, rather than because they want to become a rabbi. Through my yeshivah studies I acquired the attribute of matmidut, which is a desire to spend every free moment learning. To a yeshivah student, this means learning Torah, but I have broadened it to learning anything, usually of an academic nature. If I can facilitate other people learning, through interpreting at the college level or teaching workshops, I feel I am involved in avodah as well.
Some of the ways you can still participate in worship (if you are Jewish) beyond interpreting is to bow when the congregants do and to kiss the sefer Torah [Torah scroll] when it comes your way. You may need to act quickly! For those times when the ark is open or bowed to, you can angle yourself in such a way that the Deaf congregants can see you, but you shouldn't have your back to it. If you interpret every Shabbat [the Sabbath], you will not have an opportunity to get an aliyah [be called up to thank Hashem for the Torah] or to say kaddish [the memorial prayer for the dead]. There are a few ways around this, if this is vital to you.
If you have a team interpreter or can find someone to replace you that day, you are all set, but if this is not possible, you can do as follows. For the aliyah, you can make the blessing in Sim-Com [sign it while you are saying the Hebrew] and step aside to continue interpreting the parshah [Torah reading for that week], returning to the Torah when it is time to make the closing blessing. For kaddish, which is an obligation, not just an honor, you can stand next to the Deaf person (assuming there is only one) and run your finger along the text as you recite it in Aramaic. If there is more than one Deaf congregant, you could get their permission beforehand to simply recite it without interpretation, which is reasonable since there will be times when otherkaddishim are read and you will be interpreting, since they are not said by mourners.
We sometimes fall into needing to advocate for the Deaf, although it is preferable that they feel empowered enough to do so for themselves. This may happen with your Deaf consumers, but be aware that the Orthodox movement does not believe Deaf people can lead services, bless the Torah, or be counted in a minyan [ten adult male Jews needed as a minimum to say public prayers]. This is not negotiable with Orthodox Jews, since this is a halacha [religious law]. For other movements, such as Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist, it may depend on which congregation you interpret for and your researching to see if there is some flexibility in the movement they are part of, which that particular congregation is not aware of.
For long services, it is preferable to have a teammate. Make sure the two of you are on the same page about how you will handle the needs we have discussed. Perhaps you could work with a Deaf interpreter. I had the privilege of "feeding" an Israeli Deaf person who knew ASL. I sat in the congregation for the entire service (at the request of the interpreter) and merely let him know where we were in the service so that he would not be too much ahead of or behind the kahal [congregation]. If you have more than one Deaf congregant and you are the on-going interpreter, one of the Deaf congregants may wish to be the Deaf interpreter for at least part of the service. An alternative is that s/he can be a sign master, that is, help you translate texts.
When I first started to interpret regularly at my shul [synagogue], the Rabbi had misgivings about where I should stand. Part of the reason was because of tircha d'tzibbura [a bother to the congregation], which states that if a participant or action will be a distraction or bother during the service it must be avoided. One could imagine that an interpreter might be considered a distraction and therefore moved to somewhere in the back of the shul. Also the Rabbi had a need for all eyes to be on him when he gave his drasha ["sermon"] and you could see his upset if there were any kind of distraction. He asked me to stand in the back while I interpreted.
The Deaf congregant only wanted me to interpret the drasha, not the entire service. I otherwise sat next to him and indicated which page we were on. If something was happening that was not in the siddur [prayer book], I would tell him what it was. The way I got out of forcing the Deaf congregant to always sit in the back, was to ask the Rabbi to show me exactly where he meant in the shul. He walked me over to it and then realized it would be very isolating and changed his mind. Some rabbis will make you stay seated and not stand to interpret if the congregation is seated on the same principle.
In Orthodox synagogues, men and women sit separately. This may be achieved by having the women's section in the balcony, after all Jews do believe that women are on a higher spiritual plane, or there may be a mechitzah [dividing wall]. Some rabbis allow a man to be in the women's section to interpret and vice versa; some do not. I actually stood in one shul and interpreted by putting my hands between two sections of the mechitzah one time. And that was for an Orthodox lecture, not even a service! Because of the way that the women's section was laid out, there would not have been a place to sit or stand and still allow the Deaf woman to see the event as well. Go early and see the layout so that you can determine where you will place yourself.
Usually women can see men easily from their own section, so a male interpreter could work for a female Deaf client while standing within the men's section. For an Orthodox service, I don't see how a female interpreter could work for a male Deaf person. Perhaps this is possible, but you would definitely have to speak with the rabbi beforehand to figure out a strategy. This is rarely an issue for Conservative or Reform congregations.
2.4 The text
The heart of the service is the text. We are used to working with spontaneous spoken texts, but Jewish services are different in two respects: (1) Like the worship of some other religions, almost everything that will be said and done is written in a book and (2) the language is predominantly Hebrew, with some Aramaic and perhaps English. The advantage of working with a frozen text is that we can read it beforehand and predict what is coming with 100% accuracy. We can also look back if we get behind or miss something. It's nice that most prayer books have an English translation, so the interpreter can interpret from that even when Hebrew is being spoken, if s/he can determine where they are on the page. The disadvantages are: (1) we lose eye contact with the consumer when we or they read or check the text. (2) We need to announce what page we are on, which some of the Deaf congregants may miss (assuming there is more than one to inform). (3) We are not used doing sight translation, where we read and interpret, rather than listen to spoken or signed texts.
Resolutions for these disadvantages are: (1) Deaf people do like to compare what you sign with what is written down, so you will occasionally lose their gaze. Reading the text in this way will help the Deaf person understand what the English or Hebrew is for what you are signing. As you become used to the service or your script, you will be able to look down less and maintain eye contact. (2) There are displays that have three number cards in a row that flip over on rings like some daily calendars. This can show the page number, so that even if a Deaf congregant looks down when you sign the page number that is announced, they can always look up and see which page the congregation is on. I have seen this in the local Chabad Center so that the Rabbi doesn’t have to announce page numbers during periods when people are not supposed to talk since they are in the middle of prayers. If the interpreter has a team mate, s/he can turn the numbers to show the page.
If you are to be an on-going interpreter, you may wish to translate some of the services into ASL using a gloss system. This is how I began to write this book. I have included glossing for different Jewish services which you could use by placing this book on a music stand. I always carry a one in my car to hold up anything that will help me interpret. If you are shomer [observe] Shabbat, make sure to have your music stand there beforehand, and your script if you will use one, in case the eruv [device that allows people to carry within a special area during Shabbat] goes down. There may be a large print version of the siddur [prayer book] available for easier reading at a distance.
Know and have a copy of your text. Some parts are in the siddur; some parts a given congregation may say silently; some may be skipped; some are from the chumash [a printed copy of all the Torah readings]; some are special because of what holiday it is or in addition to it being Shabbat; some require additional information, such as the misheberach for cholim [blessing for the sick] or the Yahrzeiten [anniversaries of the death of the seven closest relatives] where people will add specific names; some depend on the nusach [version] of the prayers because of the community (Ashkenaz [European] or Sephard [Spanish and Middle Eastern]) or the movement (Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform, among others).
It may be helpful to develop a script for yourself, since there is some value in signing the service the same way every week, making it closer to the impact of a frozen text. Some interpreters ask, "Who am I to decide what it means?" No matter what you sign, you are deciding on the meaning, so you might as well try to determine what that is to the best of your ability. I do not sign Reform and Orthodox services the same way, but try to bring in what I know to be their perspective on things. For example the Reform service I interpret tries to be gender neutral and so Adonai [Lord] is translated in their Reform prayer book as "Eternal", rather than "Lord". I find it strange that they do not alter the Hebrew when they say Melech haOlam [King of the Universe]. I feel conflicted when I sign YOU RULE UNIVERSE for a Reform service rather than KING RULE UNIVERSE which I would sign for the exact same text in an Orthodox service, but again I am trying to follow their interpretation of that text, so making two interpretations/translations of the exact same text does make sense.
Become familiar with how much Hebrew your congregant knows. This will assist you with determining if you should use Hebrew spelling of terms, like R-I-V-K-A-H instead of R-E-B-E-C-C-A. The consumer might like you to mouth some Hebrew while you sign in ASL. This is assuming that you know Hebrew. If you can learn some Israeli signs for terms, this might also be appreciated. It is always dicey in a book to refer to websites since that world is always changing, but מילון שפת הסימנים הישראלית at http://www.deafinisrael.org.il/dictionary/index.html is a good resource.
It is almost impossible to exactly coordinating ending an aliyah [a section that is blessed before and after; a Shabbat Torah reading usually has seven plus a maftir]. Signing just as fast as they read does not mean that the meaning has been conveyed. Use your judgment as to whether you will skip part of a given section so that you can interpret the brocha [blessing] for the Torah reading while it is still happening.
You will at first want to have at least an English translation of what is being said so that you can interpret from that when Hebrew is spoken. I personally have pretty good comprehension of Hebrew so that I can interpret some of it without looking at my script, but I still need a cheat sheet. I use my knowledge of Hebrew to figure out if I am going too fast or too slow. Get a copy of additional things that will be said beyond the prayer book, such as Yahrzeit names, additional music, announcements, the dvar Torah [sermon or Bar/bat Mitzvah speech]. You can slowly make a gloss script for yourself as time permits and you feel it is helpful.
You can consult with the Deaf consumers as to what they want interpreted if it is a lengthy service. For some things like a wedding or funeral you will interpret everything, but the Shabbat service is three hours long and Yom Kippur lasts basically all day, so clear this up beforehand to avoid unnecessary exhaustion. You of course would only charge for the time you interpreted, but since no interpreter will be able to interpret for eight hours without a teammate, you should cut it down to size if you will be alone.
2.5 Developing/negotiating a Jewish sign
Deaf people have different levels of understanding of their religion. This is true of Hearing people as well, but for Deaf people there are additional factors involved. 90% of Deaf children are often excluded from what happens in their family because their parents can't communicate with them or don't always "bother" to do so. The archetypical example is when the family is gathered around the dinner table, especially the extended family during the holidays. Someone says something and everyone laughs, except the Deaf child. When s/he asks what was so funny, the reply come, "I'll tell you later." Of course later means never. I believe that the reason access to Jewish education and worship for the Deaf is deplorable, whereas Christian access is widespread is that many have felt that deaf people are putar [exempt] from many mitzvot and were not in need of an education. This was excusable where people did not know how to communicate with the Deaf orally or in Sign Language, but nowadays there is no excuse.
It is helpful in any setting to know what the Deaf consumer knows, and doesn't know, about the topic at hand. For a Jewish setting, be on the lookout for backchannel feedback that lets you know about this and in a casual way ask the Deaf person for their Jewish "educational" background. Some interpreters use signs that are "too" Christian to fit into a Jewish setting, such as JESUS~BOOK for "Bible", but you may also see your consumer do this due to lack of interaction with the Jewish Deaf community, if there even is one where the consumer lives. Some very fine interpreters feel that it is our duty to correct these kinds of errors, but I must respectfully disagree. Please refer to Appendix A for an explanation of the gloss system used in this book. And also the sign dictionary included to understand specific signs, such as SHABBAT.
I try to model correct ASL to the extent that I know and can express it, but if I were to sign (as I do) GOD BOOK for "Bible" and the Deaf person were to ask me, YOU MEAN JESUS~BOOK? I would reply with a simple YES. If the Deaf person were to say they prefer I sign JESUS~BOOK myself, I would explain why I don't use it and really try to talk them out of it. When a different sign than I am accustomed to is preferred and there is nothing wrong with it, such as PEOPLE TORAH for "Jews", I would try to remember to use it but explain that I may sometimes forget. The reasoning behind this sign for some is that the regular sign for Jewish is related to a beard and not all Jews are men.
Some concepts/consumers need more contextualizing than others. If during the High Holidays the Rabbi or president of the congregation were to announce: "We will do Tashlich on Monday afternoon." I would sign MONDAY AFTERNOON #DO-DO. GO RIVER EMPTY-POCKET. WHY? SYMBOL OUR SIN THROW-AWAY. I would not simply fingerspell Tashlich unless I knew all the consumers knew what Tashlich is. Even if it were to cause me to miss other information in the announcements, I think it is important to deal well with this rather than to use the dreaded words, ME INFORM LATER WILL. Some knowledgeable Deaf people want to see the Hebrew spelling, rather than the English spelling of names and places: Y-A-A-K-O-V versus J-A-C-O-B. I try to accommodate to the congregants' needs.
1. Use a sign developed by the Jewish Deaf community. This shows respect for Deaf autonomy and an understanding of Jewish culture. Signs that are new to the Deaf person should be negotiated in the usual ways, fingerspelling or explanation of the concept that is represented by that sign or sign phrase. Why do Deaf Jews develop their own signs? (a) Some Jewish concepts, although carried over into Christianity, have changed too much from their origins "Bible" - JESUS~BOOK should be GOD~BOOK, B-LAW, BOOK-FROM-GOD, or some other sign choice. (b) Some Jewish concepts are not focused on by mainstream (Christian) Deaf people, and so there is no (Christian) sign. "kosher" - K-CLEAN. (c) Deaf Jewish people want to identify with their people, especially in Israel. "Jerusalem" - YERUSHALAYIM, where the signer kisses the palmar side of the FT and then pronates and touches a mezuzah, instead of J CITY.
2. If you can find no Jewish sign, look up the meaning of the word in a Jewish on-line glossary. I suggest Lamed.org - Jewish glossary. Then try to find a short sign phrase that will bring across the meaning of the term, as in step 4 below.
3. You can use a conceptually accurate ASL sign, even though its origins may be Christian. There are a number of websites that demonstrate these. The two best are: (1) ASL pro with over 1200 interdenominational signs, some of which are strictly Jewish signs, and (2) DeafJesus.org - Vocabulary, which, although a little smaller, has the benefits of including liturgical translations of things like the Aaronic blessing, Apostle's Creed, and Lord's Prayer, and the signs are demonstrated by Deaf language models.
4. Find a sign phrase that will convey the meaning, rather than one sign. "t'shuvah (repentance)" - IGNORE-God, LATER SORRY. GET-#BACK-TOGETHER-WITH GOD. The fourth sign is (2h)[B], POs ><, FOs up, are held with NDH close to the body and the DH high and close to where God is spatialized. The hands transition to a C and then a K while rushing towards each other and contacting.
5. Use an explanatory sign phrase and later condense or negotiate a sign. "kohanim (Jewish temple priests)" - GOD PICK PEOPLE WORK TEMPLE OFFER-UP, ME SIGN KOHAIN. The last sign is the hands are held with thumbs touching, POs face away from signer, and the fingers are held together but split between the middle and ring fingers, like Mr. Spock on Star Trek. Leonard Nemoy was a kohain and got the Star Trek gesture from the traditional one which is used to bless the people during holidays.
6. Fingerspell the item. I know that fingerspelling is not popular with interpreters, but sometimes it is the best option, and once something has been clearly fingerspelled and negotiated, the fingerspelling thereafter can be much faster and fluent. "Judah" - J-U-D-A-H.
7. Contextualize [expand on] the concept. "Ya'amdu Hagba v'Glilah" - NOW SUMMON TWO PEOPLE HONOR. #DO-DO? TORAH, LIFT-UP~SHOW, OTHER TIE-UP-Torah COVER-Torah.
8. Use and enhance your knowledge of classifiers. For example, the Mishkan [portable temple in the desert] is being described in the Torah reading. Instead of trying to find "the sign" for each of the many components, try to show the visual relationship, size, shape, and so on. Of course this requires a thorough analysis of the text.
9. Use and enhance your knowledge of story-telling and role playing. For example, the story is told of how God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses at Mt. Sinai. Make the story interesting, even if most of the other congregants have glazed eyes, partly because they don't understand the Hebrew. It may be the Deaf people's turn when the rabbi gives his speech and they understand but are less than motivated.
10. Use and enhance your knowledge of non-manual grammar. This allows you to sign "smart", rather than to sign fast to keep up.
11. Remain flexible. Different consumers need different amounts and kinds of sign negotiation and contextualization. This is what keeps our minds agile and makes interpreting (hopefully) a positive challenge.
12. If the concept is from Israeli culture, you may find it helpful to borrow an Israeli sign. For example, cities, politicians, and political parties. Deaf people are increasing their use of foreign countries' signs for themselves and their cities, rather than the old ASL signs (which are sometimes seen as pejorative) or fingerspelling them. This is happening for regular vocabulary items also, such as "vodka", "smorgasbord", and "sushi".
There is a movement among some Deaf people to use indigenous signs for foreign countries and their cities. By indigenous I mean, for example, the Japanese Sign Language sign for "Japan", rather than the ASL sign. This development has been sparked by an increasing interaction between American and foreign Deaf people through activities such as international Deaf sports, Deaf Way, Deaf tourists (who can communicate more easily with foreign Deaf than Hearing people in a similar situation), Deaf missionary work, and Deaf people working in such settings as the Peace Corps. Should interpreters begin to use these signs in their work too?
Since signs for nations, nationalities and ethnic groups are a volatile issue, what is an interpreter to do? Let us consider the benefits and drawbacks and end with how to ameliorate the drawbacks if the Deaf consumers are supportive of indigenous signs. The benefits of using such signs are: (1) it shows the unity of Deaf Americans with international Deaf people and encourages the former to help other countries in their struggle for Deaf Rights and Liberation; (2) it broadens the perspective of Deaf people by showing the pervasiveness of Deaf cultures with its consequent increase in Deaf pride; (3) it respects the right of a foreign country to self-determination in regard to its own identity; (4) some ASL signs are seen as insulting or derogatory (IRELAND, POLAND, and CHINA) and using indigenous sign avoids that problem, and (5) it decreases the need for fingerspelling the many countries that have no ASL sign.
The drawbacks are: (1) some D/deaf people prefer the ASL signs and an interpreter who uses the indigenous signs may appear as if s/he is legislating sign language; (2) the new signs may be confusing and hard to get used to (especially for those countries that already have an ASL sign); (3) Hearing people don't use indigenous names, such as jung gwa for "China" and Deutschland for "Germany"; (4) some indigenous signs are identical or extremely similar (signs that resemble one another) - such as BELIZE and BRAZIL, EL-SALVADOR and ARGENTINA, IRAQ and ENGLAND.
To ameliorate the drawbacks the interpreter should: (1) use ASL signs or fingerspelling if the consumers object to the indigenous ones; (2) use ASL signs if consumers are too confused or be sure to sign negotiate and watch carefully for backchannel feedback; (3) who says Deaf people have to follow Hearing culture? maybe we should follow Deaf people on this one; and (4) if a country has more than one indigenous sign, pick the one that is not homologous to ASL, and if there are none, rely on context.
Sometimes in trying to be PC, some people are offended anyway. I enjoy using the indigenous signs for countries (their own signs for themselves). One time in interpreting for a Deaf Chinese woman, I used the sign for CHINA that traces the outline of the Mao jacket across the top of the chest and down the side of the chest. She did not like this sign because her Mother had grown up in China under Mao and had characterized the Mao regime as very oppressive and so passed down the hatred for everything Mao.
The moral of the story is be aware of signs that are generally seen as offensive, and if some Deaf person is offended by a sign that most Deaf people accept, be flexible enough to change your sign for the moment out of respect for the needs of the Deaf consumer. If you have several consumers that want different signs, let them decide, and if they can't then go back to what you would use with an explanation that it is to hard to try and use both signs throughout the speech event (presentation, class, interview, what have you.)
2.5.1 Caveats [Warnings] for sign negotiation
1. As we mentioned before, some signs may be "too" Christian. One of the Catholic signs for Moses is (2h)[G], touch FTs to respective temples and move away while closing to (2h)[bO]. The origin of this sign is a Biblical passage describing Moses as coming down from Mt. Sinai with "beams of light", that was mistranslated as "horns". This sign makes some Jews bristle because the mistranslation led to the belief that Jews were devils with horns, hooves, and tails. Best avoided.
2. One English/Hebrew word may require different signs, depending on context. (a) "aliyah [being called up to praise God for the Torah]" - SUMMON PERSON COME BLESS TORAH READ. (b) "aliyah [moving to Israel with the intention of becoming a citizen]" - PERSON DECIDE MOVE-AWAY ISRAEL, SETTLE.
3. The sign should not conflict with ASL rules. "birkat hamazon [blessing after a meal]" - B,H-BLESSING, that is NDH [B], DH [H] are held at the respective sides of the mouth, then separate while they descend. This is not an actual sign I have seen, but violates the rule that if both hands move, they must have the same handshape. I did hear of one interpreter that didn't know the sign for "bar mitzvah" and so signed "B-M" during the entire ceremony. I know synagogue is supposed to be moving, but come on!
4. Be aware of how signs show spatial or other visual information. Don't conflict with this. LORD GIFT-TO-me UNDERSTANDING, not * LORD GIFT-TO-other ME UNDERSTANDING. The first example has GIFT-TO as (2h)[X], POs ><, FOs up, nod downwards at wrist > signer to show that something is given as a gift to "me". The second example has the hands moving away from the signer and yet means to refer to "me", thereby lacking grammatical agreement.
2.6 Translating poetic text and songs
Music is merely an accompaniment of text as it is already found in the service for the Orthodox (and often the Conservative) movement, but songs outside the siddur will be added to the services of other movements. Find out who is responsible for this additional music and try to get a copy of the words, as well as an English translation. Temples are fond of having children sing something during the service and their pronunciation and volume leaves something to be desired, even if the words are English. Some people have control issues about giving out information, which I have never understood. They must have little control in their world to be jealous of sharing with others. If you are able to read music, it would be helpful to ask for a copy to determine the general tempo, where words are stretched out, and what is repeated. If you can at least get the name of the composer, you may be able to find an audio file of it on-line by using a search engine.
2.6.1 Cultural and linguistic changes in song translation
Most of the principles I suggest here for music can be applied to the prose texts in the service as well. A sung text is harder to parse [catch the wording] than a spoken text. Before Wagner, libretti [scripts that show the words being sung] were distributed to the audience and the lights were left on so that the audience would understand what was being sung. It is even more difficult to understand choral lyrics, due to staggered parts. My ideal is to write out a gloss that will tell me how to sign the songs I will perform. In this way I can make cultural and linguistic adjustments as I shall discuss at length below. Some people translate a song as poetry and ignore the rhythm, repetition, rhyme scheme, or pausing. Others try to make the interpretation match the song in some ways.
1. Try to strike a balance between poetry and producing a clear message. Don't distort the signs so much or move so much that the message is not clear. This is not to say that you must remain rigid throughout the interpretation. I would like to again encourage Deaf people to consider interpreting music as a part of their worship, as an interpreter, or as a sign master. They can do so by having an interpreter feed them, using a script of the music or reading as a guide.
2. Paint a visual picture whenever possible. Here is an example from haTiqvah [The hope], the Israeli national anthem, which is sometimes sung in synagogues. An English translation reads, "While yet within the heart, inwardly, the soul of the Jew yearns, and towards the vistas of the East, eastward, an eye looks toward Zion." This is somewhat abstract. It could be made more visual by signing EAST, JEWISH PEOPLE MANY-LOOK-TOWARDS-rt. INSIDE-SELF SOUL REALLY-WANT "WHAT"? FUTURE (2h)#ALL JEWISH PEOPLE ASSEMBLE-TO-rt JOIN-rt"each" COOPERATE ISRAEL (2h)THERE-rt.
3. Images should be visually accurate and descriptive. In the Mi Khamokha portion of the evening prayers, one English translation reads, "In their escape from the sea, Your children saw Your sovereign might displayed." It would not be visually accurate to show the Jewish people escaping from the sea; they are escaping from Pharaoh. Visual accuracy would translate, JEWISH PEOPLE THEY-ctr CONFRONT RED SEA, YOU-rt SEPARATE"each". YOUR-rt POWER, CLEAR. THEY-ctr SHOCKED, SAY…
4. Referents should be clear. "This" and "that" need to be restated so it is clear what is being referred to. If you can't point to it with some indication of the kind of thing you are pointing to, then state what it is. In the Lekha dodi [Come, beloved], sung to welcome Shabbat, an English translation reads, "Come with me to meet Shabbat, forever a fountain of blessing. Still it flows, as from the start: the last of days, for which the first was made." The subject of the sentences gets a bit lost. Here is a possible translation: HERE WE ASSEMBLE, HONOR SHABBAT. SHABBAT ARRIVE, MEAN GOD READY BLESS. HE-rt INVENT~MAKE WORLD, BACK-OF-MIND HE-rt LOOK-FORWARD SHABBAT. You can see I was a bit redundant in my use of the sign SHABBAT, but I felt it was necessary for clarity.
5. The world "let" ("Let us pray") does not usually mean permission in liturgical English, but is rather an invitation, so something like COME-ON in a beckoning motion is more appropriate than ALLOW. In the Mi Shebeirach [May he who blessed] sung in Reform services, there is the phrase usually translated as "And let us say: Amen." This I interpret as COME-ON SAY, AMEN.
6. When the scriptures anthropomorphize [give human characteristics to animals, plants, or inanimate objects, as in Psalms] make the implicit parallel explicit: " Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and the fullness thereof; Let the field exult; and all that is therein; then shall all the trees of the wood sing for joy; " (Psalm 96:11-12) We could translate this as (2h)COME-ON ANGEL SHOULD HAPPY. (2h)YOU"all" HERE EARTH COPY-heaven CELEBRATE. NATURE TOO. GRASS (2h)5-CL'grass sways', FOREST (2h)5-CL'trees sway'. NATURE MOVE MEAN DEAF-APPLAUSE. OCEAN CRASH-ON-CLIFF FOR-FOR? PRAISE GOD. This is also an example of the previous point.
7. Show chronology or cause and effect. "...bring an offering, and come into His courts." (Psalm 96:8) Should be ENTER HIS-rt HOUSE, OFFER-TO-God. You must first enter the Temple before you can offer something, and "offering" is really a verb, not a noun, so you can't say BRING OFFER ENTER HIS HOUSE.
8. Musical lyrics as well as the liturgy in general is very poetic, so use ASL poetry as inspiration as much as you can.Watch tapes of ASL poetry for inspiration and instruction. Play with alliteration by preserving the same handshape, palm orientation or location for added smoothness and charm.
9. Similes and metaphors can be established by the signs IDEA-LIKE and PARALLEL. A simile makes an unusual comparison for poetic effect and uses the word "like" or "as": "Life is like a box of chocolates." A metaphor drops the word "like" or "as" and equates them: "Life is a box of chocolates." The first sign blends IDEA and LIKE in one sweep. Simile - "my soul thirsteth for Thee, my flesh longeth for Thee, in a dry and weary land, where no water is. (Psalm 63:2) -> ME THIRST IDEA-LIKE EARTH DRY NEED RAIN. Metaphor - "Lest he tear my soul like a lion, rending it in pieces, while there is none to deliver." (Psalm 7:3) -> DON'T-WANT ENEMY IDEA-LIKE LION CLAW-AT MY SOUL. TEAR"over time". ME SUFFER, NONE ABLE RELEASE.
10. Too many sound metaphors will fall on deaf ears, so try to relate it to something other than sound. The Shema, the most important statement in Judaism says, "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one." (Deuternomy 6:4). The point here is attention or understanding and not listening with your ears, so one might translate: (2h)#ALL JEWISH PEOPLE PAY-ATTENTION, KNOW-THAT ADONAI OUR GOD. ADONAI ONLY-ONE. Without going into much elaboration as to the signs to use, the point is not about hearing.
11. Passive voice should be converted to active voice. ASL does not use the passive voice although it may change the focus or perspective of a narrative several times. In the Mourner's Kaddish we say, "Blessed, praised, glorified, exalted, extolled, mighty, upraised, and lauded be the Name of the Holy One, Blessed is He." (Artscroll translation). We should not sign BLESS, PRAISE, GLORY, etc, but rather WE THANK, PRAISE, RECOGNIZE BEAUTY ADVANCED, LIFT-UP SPLENDOR, SING ABOUT HIS-rt NAME PURE AND SUPREME. PRAISE HIM-rt.
12. If a song has a word that is drawn out, make it look pretty. Old school cantors like to drag out everything like an opera on steroids. If you find that happening in general, slow down and use the extra time to be clear, rather than rush through it thinking if you sign as fast as the sender speaks/sings you have gotten the message across; this may not be so.
13. It is desirable to try and show that music/rhythm is happening. Some interpreters simply interpret the music as if it were a spoken text with so much lag that there will be no apparent relationship between the signed message and the music. The use of rhythm can induce calm or agitation and the repetition of a short song can lead to a trance-like state.
14. Just as we need to culturally mediate and expand on some things from Hearing culture that may or may not be known to Deaf people, we need to mediate some Jewish terms that are even further removed from some Deaf people because they are religious phrases that they may not have been exposed to. It is also in the nature of ASL to be visually and semantically explicit. For example, Tashlich -> GO RIVER EMPTY-POCKETS. WHY? SYMBOL OUR SIN THROW-AWAY. EMPTY-POCKETS is grab imaginary pockets with (2h) that closes to (2h)[F], pull "pockets" inside out and shake them out.
15. If the music has an unnatural break in the pacing of a sentence, the interpreter can either add small things to fill the space or go further on, as long as the major emphases of the beat are emphasized at the same time with the important signs. Related to this, if there is a very long pause at the end of a phrase, you may wish to pick a sign that looks best when drawn out.
16. If a song has lyrics that are repeated endlessly, do something to relieve the monotony. Consider Kol Nidrei. It is usually drawn out by the cantor or shatz and sung three times. Drawing out the ASL as much as the Hebrew is drawn out just doesn't look right, so the interpreter could sign at a slower pace, not stretch it out very much and simply stop signing when s/he reaches the end of the first time, although the cantor will still be signing. The interpreter need not fill the "dead air space", but simply wait until the repetition before signing it again.
17. If the choir or a soloist takes turns with the congregation (such as a refrain), add this information into the interpretation. An example would be Anim z'mirot. Signing COPY-me seems a little too coercive to me, I prefer CONGREGATION your-TURN or role play. Or the hearing interpreter might copy the deaf congregants, what a concept!
18. Nigunim are songs without words. You can introduce a nigun by signing SONG USE SOUND WITHOUT MEANING. Then you could fingerspell what it sounds like for a while. After that some interpreters have a way of dancing with their hands. I can not pretend I am one of those, but if you can or have an opportunity to watch one who is skilled in that area, it is a treat.
19. Don't forget to use facial expression to show emotions. All of the liturgy is seeking to arouse a pious attitude of one sort or another, so try to include this in your interpretation.
2.7 Special needs: Hard of hearing congregants
In terms of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, places of worship are not legally required to provide access to peoples with disabilities. In the Fall 1997 issue of See/Hear [A Quarterly Newsletter For Families And Professionals On Visual Impairments And Deafblindness. A collaborative effort of the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired and Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services, Division for Blind Services], Mel Dugosh wrote in an article entitled "Inclusion in Church Communities", "Religious organizations or entities, including places of worship, are exempt for any Title III public accommodation requirements of the ADA." Religious institutions must use their conscience rather than legal obligation to determine the need for accessibility. This is true of Deaf people as well as hard of hearing people and, as we shall deal with later, Deaf-Blind people.
Hard of hearing congregants may depend on our services, even if we do not know much about oral interpreting. As we have mentioned before with deaf congregants, it is ideal if one of the hard of hearing consumers advocates for her/himself and others, but if there is no one to do that, it's good to know what might be helpful. Review these suggestions I offer with the consumers, who may say some are unnecessary or may add other things. The place of worship (I will sometimes use this term rather than always saying "temple or synagogue") could develop a guide to the services to help congregants familiarize themselves with what they should do and what is happening in the service, when it is difficult to ask someone and difficult to hear.
Be aware that some Orthodox and Conservative congregations will not be willing to deal with any electronics: microphones, FM loop systems, and CART on Shabbat. Hearing aids may be worn on Shabbat because they can serve as a warning of impending danger, but some rabbis suggest that if there is a volume control, it should be taped off to prevent adjustment. Digital hearing aids usually have no volume control. Some Orthodox rabbis say that a microphone may be used on Shabbat if it is set up beforehand. Other movements, such as Reform and Reconstructionist, take advantage of these helpful technologies without limitations.
If there are ALDs (assistive listening devices), someone other than the interpreter or the hard of hearing person should make sure that: (1) the central sound system is turned on each time it’s needed, (2) ushers should know there are ALDs, how they work, and where to find them and where spare batteries are kept, (3) keep the components charged up, (4) advertise on the web or other media that this service is offered, (5) make walk-in’s aware through signs how to get the ALD, (6) there is reserved seating for hard of hearing people, (7) an FM system is better than an infra-red, but "induction loop" systems that transmit directly to hearing aids with telecoils (T-coils) are even better, (8) the congregation’s board is aware that hearing aids are not enough, (9) oral interpreters or Cued Speech transliterators are provided if they are more effective than an ASL interpreter, (10) special microphone design may be needed – overhead not flat mikes for reading the Torah, as well as lavalier mikes for wandering Rabbis or speakers who do not like to stand behind a microphone. If special microphones are not available or forbidden because the congregation is Orthodox, perhaps there is a volunteer who is willing to sit next to the hard of hearing congregant to repeat to them or mouth what is being said.
Unfortunately, many senior and late deafened people feel powerless to advocate for themselves. Some resist acknowledging the change in hearing that may have been a gradual process and are not fully aware of how much they are missing. Others may just be resistant to change, while others feel embarrassed or believe their hearing loss is punishment for their own or their parent’s sins. [See Marx, T. C. (2002) Disability in Jewish Law. London & New York: Routledge. isbn 0415278899. (Vol. 3 in the "Jewish Law in Context" series, edited by N.S. Hecht, Institute of Jewish Law, Boston University School of Law)] Whatever the reason for their sense of powerlessness, the Jewish community does not have a good reputation for smooth coordination of services for Deaf or hard of hearing people. This makes it even harder for Deaf, late deafened or hard of hearing people to assert themselves and let others know about their needs. They have been rebuffed so often that many just give up. Even the simplest suggestion of "I need to sit up front so I can better see the speakers?" may be rejected. Perhaps others have "reserved" those seats or the powers that be do not fully understand the necessity for seeing the speaker’s faces to lipread as well as see body language and facial expression. Advocating for themselves is the ideal and anything we can do, as interpreters, to encourage that, would be beneficial, but we need to be aware of the daunting experience and the risk of reject that self-advocacy brings.
If a rabbi asks your advice about how to improve religious services for the hard of hearing, here is some advice you can offer, whether or not you will be interpreting at that location. (1) Speakers should talk slower and not look away or move too much. (2) A script of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah’s speech is helpful, since s/he may be nervous and look down at their script (hard to lipread) or talk too fast or too quietly. These scripts should be in an obvious place so that the hard of hearing are aware they are available. (3) If members of the congregation say something from the audience without a mike (names of people they wish to remember or ask for prayers, make a naches announcement about things to celebrate, introduce themselves as new), the person at the mike should repeat what was said or simply bring a mobile microphone to these people. (4) During study groups, such as about the Talmud, participants should speak clearly and distinctly, speak one at a time, and perhaps an oral interpreter (or Cued Speech transliterator) might be needed. (5) Just because no one complains, doesn’t mean everything is satisfactory. (A hard of hearing person who is very vocal about her needs in temple told me she is often thanked by others in the congregation but told not to reveal to anyone that they need these services. Without her, these services would not have been provided.) (6) Make congregants aware that it may be helpful during social gatherings, such as Kiddush, to move away from the crowd to minimize competing conversations.
I am grateful that I met Sarah Rose, a hard of hearing Jew, at the 2008 Jewish Deaf Congress conference in Princeton, NJ. I had a delightful conversation with her that gave me many ideas, which I have used to write this section. Here is an extended quote from something she wrote in her Temple newsletter, which I think will be helpful advice to give to hearing people:
Adult Late Onset Hearing Loss typically develops slowly. Contrary to popular understanding, hearing loss does not necessarily make speech sound softer than before; it makes speech less clear. It is therefore easy both for the person affected and others to believe that communication difficulties may be due to other causes. People may interpret the person’s failure to understand inaccurately as inattention, depression, lack of knowledge or education, or even dementia. As one hearing impaired friend told me recently, people often tell her, "if only you would try a little harder, dear!"
I frequently have people explain the most basic vocabulary to me, even though I am college educated and thought to be bright. When waiting in lines at the post office or bank I often get looks of incredulity or disgust when I don’t see or hear "next" called. Hearing loss can slowly erode a person’s confidence and enjoyment of social experiences, and can lead to withdrawal, isolation and depression.
As hearing loss develops, people will typically start to fill in the gaps of missing auditory information by using what they see or know. Lip movements, facial expressions, and knowledge of the subject matter all help. The person with the hearing loss puts all these pieces of information together and communicates by continually making educated guesses.
Some people are more adept at this process than others. Even the most skilled communicators misunderstand some of the time. Some people find social interaction so frustrating and humiliating that they withdraw. For me, wearing hearing aids in the Beit Am during Kiddush is very uncomfortable because it’s so loud. If I sit at a table, I can barely hear the person next to me, let alone participate in a roundtable discussion. It is easier and more comfortable to stay home or schedule one-on-one time with fellow congregants. I have been trying to take part in the discussions for years, but am coming to the painful realization that it is almost impossible for someone with my degree of hearing loss. I am completely exhausted after being bombarded with that level of noise for even a short period of time.
Here are some tips for hearing people on communicating with hard of hearing people: Set your stage: Face person directly. Spotlight your face (no backlighting). Avoid noisy backgrounds. Get person’s attention first. Ask how you can facilitate communication. Project your Communication: Don’t shout!!! Speak clearly, at a moderate pace. Don’t hide your mouth, chew gum, or eat while talking. Re-phrase if you are not understood. Use facial expressions, gestures. Give clues when changing subject. Be patient if response seems slow.
2.8 Special needs: Deaf-Blind congregants
If a congregant is Deaf-Blind, there are some special considerations. For a full treatment of Deaf-Blind interpreting, see Theresa Smith's book Guidelines: Practical tips for working & socializing with Deaf-Blind people. Because there are a number of etiologies [causes] of Deaf-Blindness, and because the most common one, Usher Syndrome, is a progressive disease, the method that will be most helpful for the Deaf-Blind congregant will vary from person to person and even the same person may have their needs change over time.
2.8.1 Meeting and negotiating needs
Because Deaf-Blind people have lessened hearing and sight, they depend more on their other senses, which includes smell. One should try to avoid either too much natural body odor or too many artificial odors. This means one should bathe well, take care of oral and body odor, and avoid strongly perfumed products. One should also wash one's hands frequently to avoid passing one's own germs on to Deaf-Blind people, or from one Deaf-Blind person to another.
When you first meet, if they are standing touch the person's shoulder from the front to let them know you are there. If they are seated, touch the back of the hand, and when they raise it, slide your hand underneath theirs. If they are speaking with someone when you arrive, touch their shoulder from the front and wait until they stop their conversation. Some people keep their hand on the shoulder as a "reminder".
Don't tap from behind, since they won't expect to turn around. Be flexible with your communication method, your client may be new to Deaf-Blindness or have special needs. We will discuss communication options in a moment. State your name, name sign, and business first, then chat. Even a casual conversation (not an interpreted event) may lead to a need for guiding to the bathroom or to find someone so we will explain that procedure soon.
If you need to leave, explain why and when you will be back. Keeping the consumer informed is vital, so tell the person when you are back. Identify yourself each time you meet, that way there will be no confusion or embarrassment. Think of everything you say as a promise - "I'll be right back", "I'll see you at 8:00", "I'll tell Joe what you said." Trust! Respect their privacy. Don't ask personal questions (when did you become D-B? Are you lonely? Why did you divorce? Don't pass on private information, even if it was not gained as part of the interpreting process and is therefore not covered by the Code of Ethics.
2.8.2 Communication styles
126.96.36.199 For all styles
Notice if consumers seem to move their head as if avoiding blind spots in their visual field. You may need to adjust where you are sitting or change your signing space. Clothing contrast is still important: Dark green, brown, blue or grey is best for light complexions and light shades of those colors for dark complexions. Many Deaf-Blind people are even more sensitive to bright colors than a sighted Deaf person. Begin slowly with a new person until they are used to you and you see how best to communicate. The lighting you are in should be bright without glare. Don't face the Deaf-Blind person into the sun or major light source. If you are using your voice, hard-of-hearing Deaf-Blind people may need you at their better ear and to sit away from noise. Deaf interpreters can serve as copy signers to relay the message from the hearing interpreter.
188.8.131.52 Close visual (CV)
Determine the best distance to be. If you see consumers moving their heads, your signing space may be too large. Be aware that although the consumers may see you, they may not see other visual information (the board, PowerPoint, who is speaking). Vision in the same person may change depend on health, sleep, and emotions. What people see one day, they may miss the next day.
184.108.40.206 Tracking & tactile signing
With tracking, the Deaf-Blind person will hold onto your wrists, partly to limit your arm movement and partly to reinforce how the hands are moving. Two short squeezes (or pats on the hand) usually means, "Yes, I understand what you are saying." One long squeeze usually means, "I didn't get that." It could mean, "Oh my goodness!" Judge by facial expression.
If there is pause, you can put your hands down, but it is best to maintain contact by putting your hands and the client's onto your knee or lap. Negation with only the head is hard to see, add NOT, #NO, NONE, etc. Questions may need a QM (question mark) or D-I-D. If the person uses both hands to receive ASL, it's best to sit facing with knees interlaced. If one-handed, 45-90 degrees is best. Sign with energy and clarity, despite feeling restricted, but don't be wild.
Don't duck your head to make signs like MOTHER, since it will obscure the difference between signs that differ only in location, such as MOTHER, FATHER, and FINE. Hunching also makes your signing space smaller. Information about affect that is usually conveyed by facial expression should be added by additional signs, such as FOR~SURE, DOUBTFUL, QUESTION-MARK, and so on.
If you are signing, pause slightly before fingerspelling a word and slightly afterwards to check for comprehension. When Deaf-Blind people put out their non-dominant hand, they are requesting (back-channel) feedback. Respond with YES, OH-I-SEE, WHAT-CAN-I-SAY, and so on. Touch is especially important for Deaf-Blind people. It is their link with the world. It can show you are nervous, withdrawn, friendly, tired, or bored.
You may be uncomfortable "holding hands" during pauses, but it is best to wait for the Deaf-Blind person to break contact. It keeps that link and makes it easier for the Deaf-Blind person to get your attention. Later, when you know the person better, touch will also include an occasional squeeze, stroke, pat on the back, walking close, or a hug of greeting and farewell.
Try to think of ways to communicate through touch to make up for smiles and frowns. (Pat hand, #HA-HA, a gentle nudge.) Don't tease by poking, tickling, or jostling, even though your intentions are friendly. We can see things like that coming and are startled when we don't. If the person's hands are heavy, it may mean they are tired or having difficulty understanding. Be aware of a need for a break in the conversation or interpretation. If Deaf-Blind people start a private conversation that you sense they may not want to share with others, remind or inform them if other people may be watching. They may have forgotten or the people may have shown up after you first began chatting.
If someone interrupts your conversation, tell the Deaf-Blind person what is happening and interpret or allow access to the conversation. Don't leave a Deaf-Blind person waiting during a lengthy conversation. If a hearing person is busy with a Deaf-Blind person, another hearing person can say hello to the first Hearing person who can respond without looking away. When a Deaf person is busy with a Deaf-Blind person, they must break their eye contact and therefore their concentration. It's better to wait until the Deaf-Blind person is free to look your way. With two Deaf-Blind people chatting, it is even more of an interruption and you definitely should wait until there is a lull in the conversation. Help other people who are new to the Deaf-Blind world learn to communicate with them. Don't be surprised if people, even Deaf people, are reluctant to communicate with them tactily.
All deaf people like an interpreter with the right attitude - someone who is flexible and there to make communication go smoothly, not a machine. This is even more important for the Deaf-Blind. Take off rings or bracelets, and keep fingernails trim. Some Deaf and most Hearing people feel awkward or uncomfortable communicating with a Deaf-Blind person. Try to be calm, friendly and flexible. Your mood will set the tone for others. Communication, stimulation and companionship are essential to human beings. It is a two-way street. Enjoy the conversation, shows warmth and joy of life, teach, see life through a different perspective.
220.127.116.11 Tactile fingerspelling
If the Deaf-Blind person needs all fingerspelling, pause slightly between words. Some people use Braille abbreviations. If you will be doing this often, you may want to learn them. Give yourself and your consumer rest breaks when possible.
18.104.22.168 Print on palm (POP)
Print on palm means to draw the letters of the words, one-by-one, on the palm of the Deaf-Blind person. Some Deaf-Blind people need this for numbers only, drawing a "7", for example, instead of spelling out S-E-V-E-N or signing it. There is a preferred stroke order which is illustrated in POP charts. HKNC recommends, "With your index finger, print your message in the palm of the hand of the person who is Deaf-Blind. Use capital letters only, except for the letter 'i' which is lower case. Print only in the palm area. Do not connect letters. Pause after each word. If you make a mistake, 'wipe' the palm, then print the correct letter. If the person has speech, he or she may say each letter and word aloud as you spell it. This is a good way to know that your message is being understood."
2.8.3 Environmental description
In Deaf-Blind interpreting you need to add a description of what is happening during an event outside of what is said. Imagine as an example a bar mitzvah, where you would tell the consumer, "The Rabbi is handing the bar mitzvah boy his siddur and putting his hands on the boy's head to bless him." Here is a list of some of the things you might describe: What the room where you are seated looks like, how many people are here, who is speaking (name or description, not just "a woman"), any emotion you see but is not necessarily revealed in what is said, read to the consumer what written information is being shown or distributed when there is time (handouts, PowerPoints, writing on the board that is not actually read out loud during a class or workshop), the names of people present that you and the Deaf-Blind person know.
2.8.4 Guiding a Deaf-Blind person
SSP means a support service provider. Sometimes there are individuals that will provide this service separately from the interpreter. Sometimes the interpreter needs to provide some or all of these services her/himself. As general etiquette, remember four important components of Deaf-Blind etiquette: (1) Information, (2) empowerment/choice, (3) independence, and (4) camaraderie.
Information: Ninety percent of Deaf people have hearing parents. Many of these parents never learn ASL, although it would be helpful for communication. As interpreters we have heard stories of how Deaf people have been left out of family get-togethers and don't know basic things about their family history that most children do. Most Deaf-Blind people were among these Deaf people and want to know as much about what is happening about them as possible. For this reason is important for an SSP/interpreter to share relevant information with them, although hearing people might feel "It's nothing. I'll tell you later." "Later" has too often meant "never".
Empowerment/choice: All of us want to be independent, but Deaf-Blind people often have decisions made for them, even when it is not necessary. Needless to say, this happens with many differently-abled people. For this reason it is important when you are trying to be helpful to give your consumers options about what they need and how they want to be assisted.
Independence: One of the options in how people want to be assisted is that they just may want to do it themselves altogether. Be sensitive to this. If you notice that the person takes the initiative in situations that most don't, you may need to step back and let them do for themselves.
Camaraderie: When I first meet any Deaf consumer, I am very friendly and wait for a reaction. If the person is quiet, I tone it down. If they respond in a similar fashion I keep it up. Since Deaf people are often isolated from people who know how to communicate with them during the day (perhaps night too), they sometimes appreciate a chance to talk. Even more so with Deaf-Blind people.
Walking: In general, the easiest way to guide a Deaf-Blind person is to have them hold onto the back of your upper arm and walk slightly behind you. In this way, they can feel when you turn, stop, step up to a higher level or down to a lower one. You should pause slightly before any change in motion (turning, stairs, change in walking surface) to alert your partner, but you don't need to explain every little change. If you will stand still for more than a moment, you should explain what the hold up is.
Crowded spaces: Put your leading arm slowly behind your back to indicate that your partner should move directly behind you if the passage will be narrow for a brief time. If it will be for more than a moment, you can put your partner's hand on your shoulder and guide them in this way until the passageway clears up.
Doorway: If the door will open on the same side as your leading arm, open it and place your partner's hand against what was the other side of the door before it opened and continue walking. If the door will not be on the same side, open the door and continue walking. Let the door slowly close until your partner is holding his/her body against it as you pass.
Stairs: Some people want to be told that there are stairs, some people just want you to pause, step down or up onto the first stair and then proceed. If there is a hand rail, I usually place my partner's hand on it and then they can continue to hold onto me with their other hand or use their cane if they have one.
Bathroom: If you guide people to the bathroom and you are of different genders, ask if they want someone of the same gender to help them. Some strangers are willing to do this. If not, put their hand on the bathroom doorknob and leave them to it. If both of you are female and the bathroom has more than one toilet, ask her if she would like you to go in with her and guide her. If so, put her hand on the stall door and wait for her to finish, then guide her to the sink and put her hand on the faucet, so she knows where it is. Guide her to paper towels or the hand drier. If both of you are male, I would add, ask him SIT, STAND WHICH? and guide him to the appropriate area. Continue as above.
Seating: The guide should place the partner's hand on the back of the chair where the blind person will sit. This assumes that there are no obstacles to the seat, such as theatrical seating that is not on the aisle.
Entering a car: Some people prefer to enter the car with only the assistance of having their hand lead to the door handle. For others the procedure is as follows - Open the door of the car and guide them to stand between the open door and the "doorway". Put one of their hands on the top of the door and the other on the top of the door rim by the roof. They should be able to feel their way to their seat. Stand close in case they fumble with the seat.
Guiding outdoors: If there is an overhang, such as tree branches or hanging decorations, if you can't easily go around it, pause, hold the overhang out of the way while you pass with your partner and continue. While crossing a street, pause, inform if necessary, step down, make sure the Deaf-Blind person "follows", and continue. Don't cross against the light, even if it seems clear. Some Deaf-Blind people love extreme terrain (rocks, sand, sticks). Help them do it safely, if you have an adventurous spirit.
2.8.5 Adaptive equipment
Off-line communication: To read recorded messages, there is Braille. Some people do not have sensitive enough fingertips to learn Braille. Large print may be helpful. Braille siddurim are available from the JBI (Jewish Braille Institute of America) and many siddurim publish large print editions. Braille uses a pattern of two columns and three rows to represent individual letters. One finger remains still to hold the place and the other scans over the bumps to read words letter by letter. This makes for very bulky reading materials and Type II has abbreviations to make materials more compact. Braille may be punched out by hand using a template, typed out using a Perkins Brailler, or inputed by keyboard and punched out by a computer onto Braille paper later. CCTV (Closed Circuit Television) has a camera that converts a magnified image onto a screen. This allows a person to read any printed matter or look at pictures. ZoomText is a computer program that magnifies the image that appears on a computer screen. There are various other methods of magnification with lenses.
Real-time communication: For those people who have difficulty reading a regular TTY, there are large display TTYs. This technology is on the way out for sighted Deaf people, but some Deaf-Blind people use it for phone calls as well as in the presence of someone who can't sign. For those who can't see even a large display TTY, there is TeleBraille, which translated the output of the sending TTY to a grid that pushes up little nubs in Braille patterns. The people receiving can go at their own pace because the Braille stays there until they refresh it by pushing a button, then the next series of Braille patterns appears.
Mobility and orientation: Canes are an old technology to allow blind people to feel the environment in front of them. Folding canes allow for compact storage when they are not needed. Radar devices can be attached to a cane that beeps or vibrates before a person has actually touched the obstacle. Guide animals (dogs and small ponies!) can be trained to guide a blind person away from danger and even crouch to warn of overhangs!
Signaling: The technology used for deaf people can be modified for blind people by vibrating or sending a signal to a wrist band that vibrates. These receiver-transmitters are used for alarm clocks, doorbells, fire alarms, and so on.