Interpreter Q & A: Wearing a Brace While Interpreting

Interpreter Q & A: Wearing a Brace While Interpreting

By Brenda Cartwright
Thursday, October 13, 2016

This article is written by Brenda Cartwright (BC). Brenda is a seasoned interpreter, a master teacher and a well known author. BC also contributes numerous blog articles for Signing Savvy. Look for them on the “Articles” tab on our website.

This article is part of our "Dear BC, Interpreter Q & A” series, which answers questions on interpreting and Deaf culture from multiple perspectives. There isn’t always one “right” answer to every question, and different people have different opinions on how to handle different scenarios. That is why more than one perspective is provided in this series, however, more opinions always exist. These perspectives are gathered from talking with experienced interpreters and deaf consumers from across the United States and Canada and do not solely come from the author.

Dear BC,

I am currently wearing a brace on my wrist for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Today during a break the Deaf client came up to me and asked me to remove my brace because she found it distracting and it affected my clarity. She also said it made her feel guilty for having to make me work. What do you think I should have done?

Painfully Compromised

An Experienced Interpreter's Perspective:

Our primary function as interpreters is to facilitate communication. If your client feels that your brace was truly affecting her access to equal communication, then you have several choices:

  • You could have removed the brace, if you felt you were able to sign without it and it would not cause adverse medical effects.
  • You could have not removed the brace and offered to reschedule for another day with another interpreter.
  • You could have offered to call the referral agency to try to find a replacement for yourself for the remainder of the assignment.
  • Or you could both make the best of the situation.

You are the only person who knows your limits, and she is the only person who knows if she is satisfied. We as interpreters have to make sure that we are doing what is best not only for our clients (and our profession), but also for ourselves. It may mean admitting to yourself that you’re not at 100 percent right now and taking some time off until you recover.

Experienced Deaf Consumer's Perspective:

Over the past 25 years, I have had several interpreters who wore braces due to Carpal Tunnel or other injuries in their arms or shoulders. My response was that I judged these interpreters on the accuracy of the information. If that was there, then I would have no problem with it. However, if the interpreter’s expressions or movements indicated that he/she was in pain or having difficulty keeping up, I would also have said something. I would ask for a replacement until he/she is able to do the job fully again. I am acutely aware that interpreters are human beings and are not easily replaced. I try to show understanding and compassion by trying to work with the interpreter. In the long run, this effort pays off because a good and healthy interpreter is worth it.

What's your perspective? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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About the Author

Brenda CartwrightBrenda Cartwright is a seasoned interpreter, a master teacher, well known presenter, and author of several best selling sign language and interpreting textbooks from the RID Press. For 35 years Brenda was the Chair of the Sign Language Interpreter Program at Lansing Community College in Lansing, Michigan.

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