A report from the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf states that of the more than 10,000 sign-language interpreters that are registered nationally, 13%, identify as persons of color. Acknowledging this gap, a team at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf announced that it has created a program that aims to equip interpreters of color to meet the demands of interpreting in a postsecondary environment, while boosting recruitment and retention efforts for interpreters of color.

The Randleman Program, named for Valerie Randleman, the first black interpreter in RIT’s Department of Access Services, was formed in 2019. According to its founders, the two-year preceptor program addresses diversity challenges and anecdotal evidence that suggests that interpreters of color have a significantly different experience going through interpreter training programs than their white counterparts.

“Systematic norms catering to the success of the majority, often adversely affect students of color,” explained Kristi Love-Cooper, a staff interpreter and Randleman Program coordinator. “These norms can manifest in oppressive, alienating ways that can make it difficult for interpreting students of color to succeed. By the time our protègès complete the Randleman Program, they will be able to successfully navigate the workplace, as well as have the tools to participate in inclusion initiatives in the workplace and the field of interpreting.”

Karina Mendez Villanueva, one of the Randleman Program’s protègès, was recently hired as a full-time staff interpreter.

Through the use of individualized mentoring, small group meetings, and professional development activities, the program helps interpreters continue to develop cognitive processing skills while interpreting, develop self-assessment skills using non-evaluative language, and grow confidence while interpreting in a postsecondary environment.

Since the inception of the program about a year ago, the representation of Black and Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) interpreters in the department has increased from 8% to 14%. Love-Cooper says that because of the program’s success, they have the opportunity to recruit three new protègès for the fall 2020 program due to the recent cohort having been hired for full-time positions. 

The Randleman Program is also hosting its first symposium in March where speakers from across the United States will gather to discuss recruiting and retaining BIPOC interpreters in the field of interpreting.

“The successes of the Randleman Program would not have happened without the generous support and encouragement of NTID President Gerry Buckley,” added Love-Cooper. “We thank him for his leadership, vision, and continued support.”  

Randleman retired from working as an interpreter after 35 years of service. She has interpreted for several notable figures, including Maya Angelou, former President Gerald Ford, Black Panther Party co-founder Bobby Seale, and many others.

The program is supported by NTID and the Department of Access Services. For more information, go to the Randleman Program webpage.

Source: RIT

Image: Gabriel Ponte-Fleary/RIT