RIT program helping people of color to become sign language interpreters

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RIT’s Randleman program raises funds to help current and future Randleman students pay for sign language certification.

The program started in 2019 and provides students with mentors from similar cultural backgrounds. The aim is to increase the diversity of sign language interpreters working with deaf people of color in areas such as education and health.

The Randleman Endowment for Interpreter Certification hopes to raise $ 50,000 by the end of the year, an amount that will be matched by the federal government for a total of $ 100,000. Amberlee Jones, associate interpreter for RIT’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf, said sign language certifications cost hundreds of dollars and can often create a barrier for interpreters of color.

“We tend to be non-traditional students, people with careers, individuals, families, etc.,” Jones said. “So these financial barriers to getting certified can really prevent us from retaining interpreters of color in our field. “

Many Randleman students come from all over the country to work in the Rochester area.

There is currently no certification required to be a sign language interpreter in New York state, but Jones said the certification can help interpreters retain their skills when they return to their home state.

“A lot of times you can’t raise your hand to perform in different states without some type of lesson, license, or certification,” Jones said. “The moment they’re able to save for certification, student loans kick in. So a lot of people can’t stay in the interpreting business and it’s become a privilege.

Ariana Jones, a current student at Randleman, said the program gives deaf and hearing people the opportunity to see BIPOC performers represented in the community.

“Being around people like you and then performing for those like you It’s a really special feeling to connect on a different level,” Jones said.

The Ohio native said she plans to use her skills to help the deaf community in the criminal justice system.

DeAndre Spurlock, a recent graduate of Randleman, said the staffing would give the program more visibility and possibly increase the number of diverse performers across America.

“Not even a lot of people knew this was a career and that in itself was a barrier to letting more people of color come onto the pitch,” said Spurlock.

He says learning about the deaf culture is essential to increase diversity in the field of performance.

“Interpretation is one way to do it, but a better way to do it is if more people know sign language and you would need fewer interpreters,” Spurlock said.

RIT has already raised $ 40,000 for the endowment. The funds will be used to finance the certification of 10 students per year.


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