RIT News: Increasing diversity of sign-language interpreters is focus of new program

In News by ALDA News

New program addresses need and training for interpreters of color
RIT/NTID program equips interpreters of color for postsecondary interpreting while boosting recruitment efforts for diverse interpreters

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, a mere 13 percent identify as persons of color. Acknowledging this gap, a team at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf 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 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.”

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, 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 percent to 14 percent. 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.

For more information, contact Vienna McGrain at 585-475-4952, Vienna.Carvalho@rit.edu, or on Twitter: @viennamcgrain.

PHOTO AVAILABLEhttps://www.rit.edu/ritnews/images/pics_admin/Randleman.jpg
Caption: Karina Mendez Villanueva, one of the Randleman Program’s protègès, was recently hired as a full-time staff interpreter. The program equips interpreters of color to meet the demands of interpreting in a postsecondary environment, while boosting recruitment efforts for interpreters of color.
Credit: Gabriel Ponte-Fleary/RIT


Established by the U.S. Congress in 1965, the National Technical Institute for the Deaf is the first and largest technological college in the world for deaf and hard-of-hearing students. NTID offers associate degree programs for deaf and hard-of-hearing students and provides support and access services for deaf and hard-of-hearing students who study in the other eight colleges of RIT. NTID also offers a certificate in healthcare interpretation, bachelor’s degree program in sign language interpreting and master’s degrees in healthcare interpretation and secondary education for individuals interested in teaching deaf and hard-of-hearing students. Deaf and hard-of-hearing students come from all over the United States and around the world to take advantage of the opportunities available to them at RIT/NTID. Go to www.rit.edu/NTID.
Rochester Institute of Technology is home to leading creators, entrepreneurs, innovators and researchers. Founded in 1829, RIT enrolls about 19,000 students in more than 200 career-oriented and professional programs, making it among the largest private universities in the U.S.

The university is internationally recognized and ranked for academic leadership in business, computing, engineering, imaging science, liberal arts, sustainability, and fine and applied arts. RIT also offers unparalleled support services for deaf and hard-of-hearing students. The cooperative education program is one of the oldest and largest in the nation. Global partnerships include campuses in China, Croatia, Dubai and Kosovo.

For news, photos and videos, go to www.rit.edu/news.

To follow RIT on social media, go to www.rit.edu/socialmedia.