By Rosemary R. Wanis, MSW, MS, CDI
If you see a man and woman fighting on the side of the road, you would pull over. You would ask the woman on the side of the street if she was alright. You would ask her if she was safe, if she needed to call the police, you would ask these questions before moving on. You would do this because you think to yourself “If this was my sister, I would want someone to stop and make sure she was safe.” In so doing, you have become an ally to this person.
If you see a grandmother walking through a parking lot with a shopping cart full of food and she is clearly lost, looking for her car, you would approach her and gently ask if you could help her look for her car. You ask this because you think to yourself “If this was my grandmother, I would want someone to stop and help her find her car.” In so doing, you have become an ally to this person.
In keeping with the Ally Model, as interpreters, when you see something that you know is not right; an injustice, you want to work WITH the Deaf person to find a solution. For example: a teacher refuses to turn on the lights while showing a video in the classroom. A student tells you that they are struggling understanding your team interpreter. An employer tells his management staff not to offer the new promotion opportunity to any of the Deaf employees.
In each of these situations, you can become an ally, by asking the Deaf person(s) involved, “what would you like to do in this situation?” “Do you want to talk with the teacher, I will be happy to interpret for you?” “Do you want to go to the principal’s office, I will be willing to go with you and interpret you sharing that you are not satisfied with the services.” “Do you want to go to the employer and let him know that you have the right to promotion opportunities just like anyone else? I will be more than happy to interpret between you and your boss.”
You make a conscious decision to not withhold information that you have, not to take over and develop solutions without including the Deaf person, but rather embracing the opportunity to make a change and to include the Deaf person from the beginning to the end toward the goal of successful outcomes. By making this conscious decision, you become an ally. As an ally you are telling your Deaf peers that:
Your problem is my problem.
Your injustice is my injustice.
Your desire to see change happen is my desire too.
Next time you see an injustice taking place toward a Deaf person, ask yourself “What if this person was my family member? My child? My best friend? What would I do and how would I want others to treat them?”
Use your resources, skills, knowledge, experiences, circle of influence; your wealth, to become an ally. Work side-by-side with the Deaf individuals who come from a rich, beautiful joyful Deaf Culture that is derived from solutions. Deaf people, by nature, are problem-solvers. Working together, as allies, we can solve the various challenges that may arise and make the world a better place for all.
This article was first featured in the The Sign Post CCRID Newsletter. Reprinted with permission of the author.