Interpreter Q & A: Wearing a Brace While Interpreting
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.
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?
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.
JanisMonday, February 24, 2020
Sometimes a brace is unavoidable due to pain & cramping which does make signing more difficult; but it leaves fewer options to 'not' use a brace.
To facilite restricted communications, wearing bright finger-nail polish (something more readily seen) & complimentary jewelry to assist the seeing of finger, hand, arm motions maty help. Proper make-up/lip-stick should compliment the lip movements that facilitate the hand motions & overall signing comprehension so that the face & all of it's components are not a uncomplementary distraction when using the hand signal around the face/mouth.
I am wheelchair bound with chronic backpain & arthritis in my wrist & hands (& other parts of the body); wearing a neutral color brace should not be so distracting when the brace design is such that it allows for finger & hand motions. No one should ever bully anyone for the wearing of a brace that provides for relief of pain.
God Bless everyone; sincerely // Janis //
Wearing a Brace
Jillian @ Signing SavvyTuesday, February 25, 2020
You’ve provided some good suggestions Janis. Like you said, an interpreter should never remove a brace if it is medically needed, or feel pressure to do something that could harm themselves. However, we can also all sometimes be guilty of pushing ourselves past our limits… going to work when we are sick or continuing to push through when we may not really be in the right state mentally or physically. It’s not bullying, and is the Deaf client’s right, to speak up if there is an issue with the accuracy or clarity of communication. Most clients will not have an issue with a neutral colored brace, unless it really is causing an issue with the interpreter’s signing (which is more likely the cause of the underlining medical condition than because they are wearing a brace).