Falling on Deaf Ears - Part II
By Monette Benoit
Part II, Falling on Deaf Ears, continues last month's article sharing CART FAQs, comments and facts that consistently cross my path. To further assist you, many articles that I've written about my experiences with CART and deaf topics are online at www.NCRAonline.org in the CART Special Interest Area and CART Archives.
- "How long did it take you to build your dictionary?"
- "What accuracy do you write?"
The best I can each and every time. Learning to fingerspell dramatically improved my skills. I tease people that I spent two semesters fingerspelling Latin. Knowing what is, and is not, in your dictionary, fingerspelling without hesitation and having a sense of humor is essential in this work, I believe.
- "Do you write verbatim?"
Now don't blast me if you think you know this answer. But this depends on my audience (one-to-one or one-to-many), the technical level of the job, and what is or isn't in my dictionary. I always try to write verbatim, but if there is a word that is used repeatedly, I can fingerspell it or I can modify the word. Having worked in courtrooms and depositions, I know there's a fine line to what is not verbatim.
- "Why would you not write verbatim?"
If my consumer is learning challenged and/or disabled, if his or her vocabulary comprehension falls short of the level being discussed, I may need to shift my writing. When I write on a screen vs. on a laptop and/or television for one or a few, I assess each situation from the view of the consumer and the job for which I have been hired. But if the consumer points and asks, "What is that word?" I have a responsibility within the role that I am providing to assist that person. If a person is Big D (Big Deaf), the English syntax is different. Often they have sign interpreters, but if the group doesn't want to pay for an interpreter and a CART provider, you will find yourself in a role where you may need to shift how you write.
To prevent problems, I inquire about the consumer, speakers and topics before the event to gain insight as to what may pop up during the course of a job. And if I'm up on a screen, the role is very different. Often I ask the person to write the word on a piece of paper; I answer their question(s) after the speakers are finished. (I prefer to answer their question on paper, if I can, to avoid embarrassing the consumer.)
- "I keep hearing about writing environmental sounds. How much should a CART provider write?"
I have taken the stance that if I can hear it and can get it on the screen without altering the message, I write it. I am their ears. Samples: dogs barking ("hearing dogs" at work), stomach gurgling (if everyone is laughing, consumers should share in that moment also), rain hitting window, birds chirping (that one still draws tears), garbage truck dumping trash, baby hiccupping and crying, helicopter overhead, etc. If people comment and/or make eye gestures regarding any sounds, I try to include the description with parentheses around the word(s).
- "Do you think CART will grow?"
- "How do you handle working with sign interpreters?"
Become a team. Feed them. More teams are created around food ... truly. It's a common joke that if you want deaf people to come to an event, feed them. The same is true for interpreters and CART providers.
- "How do you know what the consumers need?"
This answer is similar to "location, location, location." Ask. Ask. Ask them.
Recently I was in a room with hard-of-hearing and deaf people. CART was going to be provided. A sign interpreter approached, asking me if I wanted her to sign. I paused, saying, "Gee, I don't know. CART has been prepared as the communication; I wouldn't be able to pay for it myself." The interpreter said, "That's OK. If someone wants it, I'd be happy to sign." I approached the CART provider, explaining the request. The reply, "No, not now ... ." As I slowly turned to the interpreter, she signed to the deaf, asking them directly. The request was accepted; she placed her chair next to the realtime monitor. The interpreter signed; more than one deaf person watched both the monitor and the interpreter. What did I learn (again)? Ask. Ask. Ask them.
- "Who should I look at when I'm speaking to a deaf person and an interpreter is signing?"
Great question. I still have to concentrate and focus on the face of the deaf person. When I forget or continue to watch the interpreter, I am (nicely) refocused. The interpreter is speaking, signing for the deaf person; they are in role.
- "What's the funniest thing that's ever happened to you?"
Well, that continues to evolve.
During the NCRA Midyear in San Antonio, I attended the NCRF Fundraiser. My guest was Laney Fox, a deaf teen for whom I have realtimed. I hired an interpreter, Molly Sheridan (Texas Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Level IV), to interpret the Saturday evening with Wayne Lee, a hypnotist. As we were standing in line, a person approached from behind saying, "Excuse me," several times to Laney's back. (She wanted a napkin from the counter.) I smiled, watched. Eventually, I said, "She's deaf" (pointing to Laney). The person said, "I'm soooo sorry." I tapped Laney and Molly's shoulder. They asked, "What's so funny?" I said, "She's sorry you're deaf." We all laughed. This happens a lot. Hearing people often talk to the back of a deaf or hard-of-hearing person, not knowing.
Interpreters approach new clients from behind, saying the name of the person they are seeking. When one person doesn't turn around, bingo; that's the client.
This is a process. When we stop "building," we retire from the technical world in which we live. When I began the religious realtime in 1993, I devoted six months to writing and globaling terms. My alarm rang at 4:30 a.m. to squeeze in one hour each morning. (I was exhausted, but knew my life was shifting each day. I felt the pull and knew it deep within my heart.) I taught full time (two shifts), was finishing my degree and continued to expand CRR Books.
I created an additional goal of 30 minutes each evening - even if that meant staring at my steno machine across the living room. The goal was to incorporate building into my structure. Once it became a habit, it was easier to find the time, and the challenge was to improve my skills. The challenge still continues.
Remember I said the sense of humor is important. I have a deaf friend who will go to hotel lobbies and play the piano. No one knows he is deaf. He smiles and nods as people speak to him. The first time I saw this, I held my ribs to stop from howling. His sincerity, eye contact, was so pure as each person spoke to him. We have much to learn from each deaf and hard-of-hearing person ... much indeed.
You have my permission to copy, add, delete, share. And there will be a Part III. Maybe this series could be renamed to "Falling on Hearing Ears" one day. With your involvement, we can make this a possibility. One set of ears, one set of hands at a time.
And I still swear that learning theory was the hardest thing I ever did.
About the Author:
Monette Benoit, B.Ba., CRI, CPE, is a JCR Contributing Editor.