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Spoken Language Agency Panel- January 26, 2013

Tuesday, May 07, 2013 12:57 PM | Anonymous
Moderator: Jim Brune

Agencies in attendance:
Francine Kuipers, CEO and owner of Accent on Languages,
Phuong-Lan Thi Do with LanDo Interpreting,
Taryk Rouchdy from International Effectiveness Center  IEC,
Koy Saephan from Excel.

Francine Kuipers, CEO and owner of Accent on Languages: Francine Kuipers was born in France and moved to California in 1978. She was the principal of the French American School until 1985. She taught French and Spanish at various schools in the US, France and the University in Peru.

Francine has founded 5 language companies since 1986: Linguatheque of Los Angeles, Access Language Services, Accent on Languages, Accent on Culture, and Berkeley Language Institute (which focuses on training translators and interpreters).

As a linguistic and cultural consultant, Francine has been involved in various cultural programs in France, Peru, China, Russia and the West Bank. She is passionate about languages and the promotion of cultural sensitivity. She developed language and cultural programs sold in schools throughout the world and used by the US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Phuong-Lan Thi Do: LanDo Interpreting is located in San Francisco. Lan Do has a B.A. in Business management.  She established Lan Do Interpreting in September 1993. Prior to that she was the Director of The Language Bank, Inc. in San Francisco, director of Seward County Community College Refugee 4. Program, Liberal, KS and a Case-manager/ interpreter-translator, Springfield Area Council of Churches Refugee Program, Springfield, MO
Lan do is Fluent in English, Vietnamese, and Conversational in French.

Taryk Rouchdy from IEC: Taryk Rouchdy was born in Alexandria Egypt in 1942. He holds an M.A. in Philology and an M.A. in Shakespearean Era. He is Fluent in 5 languages and semi fluent in 4 more. He Moved to the United States in 1967 and founded International Effectiveness Centers in 1972.

Koy Saephan from Excel:   Koy Saephan, founder and CEO of Excel Interpreting, LLC has over 13 years of experience as a professional language interpreter and translator. Ms. Saephan received her B.A. in English Literature from U.C.L.A., and completed over two years of law school before launching Excel Interpreting, LLC.
In 2000 she became the first registered court interpreter for the Mien language in the State of California. Ms. Saephan’s commitment to the Sacramento community is demonstrated by her past and present volunteer work: Chair of Lao Family Community Development, Inc. and board member of United Iu-Mien Community.
Additionally, Ms. Saephan held the position of Educational Outreach Project Coordinator for the Tulare County District Attorney’s Office where she translated written materials addressing victim violence, statutory rape, and parenting into four languages – Mien, Hmong, Lao and Lahu.

Questions for panelists:
1. Start by briefly telling us a little about your agency.                                                       
    •    How long your agency has been in existence
    •    Where you are located
    •    How long you have been providing ASL services
    •    How many people work for your agency (interpreters, staff)

IEC:IEC has been in existence since 1972.  IEC is headquartered in Corte Madera and SF. IEC has been providing ASL since 1992. They use about 350 interpreters in the North Bay and also serve 11 other states. The North bay is their prime location.

Excel: Excel is located in Sacramento and has been in existence since 2000.  About 6 people work at Excel. Excel began providing ASL in 2009.

LanDo: Lan do was founded in 1993. They are located in SF and started providing ASL services in 1999. There are 9 full time staff members with over 500 sub contractors all over the US.

Accent: Accent on Languages islocated in Berkeley and was established In 1997. Before that, Ms. Kuipers had another company which she established in 1986.  They provide services in all different languages.  They started providing ASL about 7 years ago.  They have combined about interpreters 200 locally, and more in other locations.  Currently they are focused on local and state contracts.
2. Please tell us a bit more about your agency. 
    •    What led you to decide to add ASL to your services?
    •    What type of contracts you have which require ASL interpreters.
    •    Does anyone on your staff sign well enough to communicate with Deaf / Hard of Hearing consumers?
    •    What professional organizations relevant to ASL interpreters and the Deaf community are you a member of?

IEC:  Began providing ASL for personal and business reasons.  His sister became blind and it was a learning experience to see how handicapped people function.  Two weeks after his sister went blind, he got a call from Contra Costa County requesting an ASL interpreter.  He Didn’t know much at the time and understands the concerns of the community.  Twenty years later, it is still a learning experience.  Providing ASL has been a great endeavor. He is impressed with the affection among the Deaf/interpreting community.  He wants to participate and do his best to serve the Deaf community.  No one on staff can sign, but he has hired an interpreter to come and teach the staff sign language starting in March.

Excel: When government agencies put contracts out for bids, they want all the languages in one contract, a one stop shop.  Ms. Saephon has lobbied government agencies to separate out ASL,  but to no avail.  DMV, CSR, OAH, are three contracts they have that require ASL but there are few requests. So Excel is forced to provide ASL.  It has been a huge challenge.  At one point Excel wanted to bid on a 1 week project hoping to get to know the interpreters and the community.  Excel was awarded the contract but dealing with ASL interpreters was not a positive experience.

LanDo:  in 1999 Lan Do bid on a state contract  to provide services to the DMV.  The contract required all languages be provided.  They bid and won the contract so they had to provide ASL interpreters.  Every time there is an ASL request, Lan Do becomes nervous.  Many of the request are for legal settings. It often takes a lot of time to fill the request. She spends an immense amount of time  looking for interpreters and/or referrals.  If not successful, then she subcontracts with BACA.  She always goes with certified Interpreters. She is doing the best she can.

Accent:  From 1986 until about seven years ago there were no ASL requests.  However, Alameda County was required to hire an agency in the same county to provide services so they approached Accent about a contract.  Accent felt this was a challenge.  There is a lot of distrust of her agency.  It has required a lot of work to build a pool of interpreters.  She has subcontracted with other agencies to get ASL interpreters.  CMAS (California Multiple Award Schedule). They are a member of RID.

3. What has your experience been working with ASL interpreters?

IEC: Very impressed with ASL.  It is difficult to interpret spoken language into sign.  His experience is that sign language interpreters (SLIs) are very ethical, especially when taking work. The commitment from the interpreters to the Deaf community is phenomenal. He experiences skepticism from the community and understands why.

Excel: There has beena lot of resistance and difficulty.  Ms. Saephan has no relationship with Deaf organizations, so doesn’t feel confident providing interpreters. She was yelled at by an ASL interpreter who said that the interpreters don’t get work because of SLAs. Often interpreters don’t respond to the calls/emails for requests. She feels interpreters don’t want to be blacklisted by accepting work from SLAs.  There is a sense of loyalty to ASL agencies.

LanDo: It takes a long time to fill the requests because she only looks for top interpreters.  She relies on referrals.  She has good relationships with the sign language agencies  and has tremendous respect for SLIs because their work requires use of both their hands and mouth while spoken language interpreters only work with their mouths.

Accent: The commitment from the SLI surpasses that of other language communities.  She doesn’t feel like an expert in the area of ASL but wants to learn more.  It is challenging is to find good interpreters that are available.  Recently, Accent had a request for two day job and it was hard to find one interpreter that could do both days.  Every interpreter could only do portions.  She ended up sub contracting it to an ASL agency.


4. Are you aware of the impact Spoken Language Agencies have had on the interpreting and Deaf communities?

IEC: He received a link from Robin Mills about the question of agencies being certified.  He feels it is necessary. He feels everyone here is commited to what they do.  Many agencies don’t screen interpreters; they just hire on the spot.  But IEC is committed to providing quality service.

Excel: Excel has tried to form alliances with ASL agencies but feels they make it difficult.  Fees and cancellation policies are unrealistic and outrageous.  Excel knows that there is a  feeling that the quality is being compromised because there is a lack of knowledge on the part of SLAs. Foreign language and ASL services don’t differ much.  Certification doesn’t equate with being qualified. She knows that CI/CT has been around a lot longer. When she has  tried to defer to ASL agencies, she has felt shut out.  There is a positive attitude from the interpreters who are willing to work with her.  Her business has been impacted because they have to spend many hours and days looking for ASL interpreters. Some SLAs are in it are just in it for the business. As the  daughter of an immigrant, she understands the need for quality interpreters.

LanDo: Lan Do is not aware of the impact.  She does not take ASL-only contracts.  She asks friends/colleagues to help with ASL requests and now refers request to ASL agencies.

Accent: Accent has mixed feelings because the implication is that the impact is negative, and she doesn’t see it that way.  Before bidding and writing a proposal, she makes sure that she has the resources.  She has reached out to interpreters in the area where the contracts are, but got a violent response from one person who owned a small agency herself. She feels she is providing work to interpreters.

5. Hiring of ASL interpreters;
    •    How do you screen ASL interpreters?
    •    Do you have a minimum number of years experience and/or
    •    certification(s) requirement?

IEC: The Deaf/ASL interpreting  community is small and everyone knows each other. he feels that is the best screening process.  He takes referrals.  Sometimes consumers make recommendations.

Excel: Excel asks the requesting party the nature of the assignment.  She tries to get all the details.  Then she reaches out to the interpreter that seems to be the best match.  If it is a legal assignment, she looks for someone with legal certification. But it is difficult.  She doesn’t hire anyone with a certification less than NAD III.  She hopes that interpreters are honest when speaking of their qualifications.  She knows that there needs to be some accountability.  Foreign language  interpreters also can’t jump into a trial just because they have their legal certification.  It takes time and experience.  When interpreters decline to work with SLAs,  they are declining to work with the people who need the services.

LanDo: Screening is hard for SLAs with such a small amount of requests for ASL.  She doesn’t formally screen. New interpreters usually are referred by current interpreters.  Interpreters have a choice about working with LanDO.  If she can’t find an interpreter, she goes to a sign language agency. She is not trying to taking work away from the community but doing it to survive.

Accent: relies on referrals.  She trusts that people are qualified.  She only uses certified interpreters who have a minimum of several years of experience.

6. Business practices;
    •    What determines the rate you pay interpreters?
    •    Do ASL and spoken language interpreters get the same rate?
    •    Do all ASL interpreters get the same rate?
    •    What are your billing procedures? (2 hr. min, mileage, parking etc.)
    •    Can Deaf consumers request specific interpreters? If so, how?
    •    Can consumers get confirmation of their assigned interpreters?
    •    How do you match interpreters to assignments?
    •    What mechanism for feedback do you have? For interpreters? For Deaf consumers? For hearing consumers?
    •    Do you use CDIs? Do you know why CDIs would be used?
    •    Do you have working relationships with any ASL agencies? (i.e. do you ever subcontract?. If so, why?)
    •    What sets your agency apart in providing ASL services?
    •    What do you see as the biggest challenges you face in providing ASL services?

IEC: Yes, the pay scale is high, but ASL interpreters are worth the high rate.  IEC pays mileage and parking when necessary, but IRS does not like independent contractors to get reimbursement from agencies.  IEC sometimes gets requests, especially for gender.  Sometimes in hospitals, the Deaf person requests a specific interpreter.  ASL interpreters have more of a relationship with Deaf consumers and community.
We do match client and interpreter depending on the nature of the job, for example medical, legal, educational, etc.  When forced to we’ll use CDI’s but it depends on the assignment.  In terms of feedback, they rely on the client’s feedback.  The Deaf community is quick to criticize or compliment.  IEC keeps track of feedback, especially in terms of preferences.

Excel:  ASL interpreter rates are similar to spoken language.  The rate changes with setting, for example legal, medical.  Sometimes interpreters charge a partial day.  Excel is willing to pay parking and mileage. ASL interpreters do get more than foreign language interpreters.  And ASL interpreters know that FL agencies have a harder time finding ASL interpreters that are qualified.  It is unclear what “certified interpreter” means. Does it mean, agency certifies or a national qualified body determines certification?  She sees the problem in both spoken language and ASL world.  We depend on our past experience with individual interpreters.  We get as much information as possible.  “Medical” can mean many things, so we ask for more information.  We also provide the name of the interpreter when we assign the person to the job.

Feedback: Excel encourages all participants to provide feedback and follow up with the interpreter in terms of what worked, etc.  It is not always possible, but they try to be available, thru email or phone calls.   We ask about the interpreter’s experience (background) and  the different kinds of jobs they’ve accepted before.
The difficulty in working with ASL agencies is in regards to minimum hours and cancellation policies. Sometimes they just don’t respond at all.  But we’ve had a few working relationships with Bay Area sign agencies, but challenges with distance and resources.  ASL is very small part of our business.  We understand the Deaf community is small and close-knit.  Right now, we’re working on getting a CDI for a rural job.  We used the RID website and referrals. The problem is that one person let her certification lapse, but the state requires certifications and they don’t really understand “certified” either.  To pick a particular person who is appropriate, depends on the details.  What language?  Are other advocates present?  Etc.  We try our best to pick the best interpreter possible with sensitivity.

LanDo: They ask the interpreter what they rate is.  If they can afford it, they pay it.  They are willing to pay out of pocket if the ASL interpreter charges more than what the contract pays.  For Spanish, they bid low because the competition is high. Most of the time ASL interpreters get paid more than spoken language interpreters because there are less ASL interpreters available. They require NAD level 4 or CI/CT certification.  The Deaf client can request.  If she has a good relationship with a Deaf consumer, they can call her directly with problems.  ASL interpreters can get confirmation through relay services.   We match interpreter to nature of the assignment.  For example, if it is a legal assignment, they use legally certified interpreters.  If it is a conference, they use conference interpreters.

They do match interpreters with clients.  In terms of feedback, they provide a form with all of the interpreters for evaluation.  We hope that the client provides honest feedback.  Most has been positive.  Working with ASL agencies: we have a good relationship.  We believe in networking because we have less experience with ASL assignments than the ASL agencies do.   Good communication means having a qualified interpreters.  It takes a lot of time to find one good ASL interpreter.

Accent: The rate for interpreters, spoken or ASL is generally the same but it varies.  But language and qualifications/certifications do come into play.  Most interpreters have their own rate.  Some contracts allow the agency to pay a certain rate, and others don’t.  Accent uses a scale.  A two hour is a minimum is the standard.  Mileage and parking varies too.   For ASL contracts they don’t deal with the consumers directly, for example, when working with a social workers they ask that we try to be consistent.  Sometimes there is a request for gender.  But Accent has less choices because they don’t have a large pool of interpreters.  Again, they rely on the ethics of the interpreters.

They do match interpreter to the assignment.  They try to find the best person for the job.  Feedback: we ask our clients for feedback, we don’t have contact with the consumer directly, only the client.  For example, if interpreter is late, they let me know.  The only difference between ASL and spoken language is sub-contracting to another agency.  It is never needed for spoken language assignments, but required sometimes for ASL jobs.  We do not profit from sub-contracting.  But the goal is to serve the community.
7. Community involvement
    •    How do you participate in the Deaf community?
    •    How do you give back to the Deaf community?
    •    How would you like the Deaf community to become involved? (or Do you see a way for the deaf community to be involved?)                                  

IEC:  How to support the community: We are in negotiation with several large retailers to provide video interpreters on computers, free of charge.  Also, providing dual language interpreting for travelers to other countries, using other languages than English.  We have that advantage to provide both spoken language interpreters and ASL at the same time.

Excel: Again, there’s been resistance.  She knows as a SLA, the problem won’t go away.  Excel gives back by being visible–in her own immigrant community and giving back by serving on boards and volunteering.  Excel wants to be a part of the ASL/Deaf communities, but the door has to be open.  Excel is willing to support financially, too.  As we experience challenges, maybe there’s a point person to whom we can express our concerns, someone with better info and networking to guide us.  Excel wants to learn more, be more involved, support the people we provide services for.  It’s the same for spoken lg clients, too.  Please let Excel know how we they be more involved.  When initially invited to the panel, Ms. Saephan was terrified to come.  But when she showed up, she felt the vibe was positive.  Excel will come to Deaf community events, just let her know.

LanDo: Lan do is not involved, but not from lack of effort. They work with ASL agencies from across California.  When they received the invitation for the panel, they thought it was a great opportunity to meet the community. They look forward to more future opportunities.  Maybe there can be a gathering with spoken language interpreters.  They hope to be welcomed  into the community.  The goal is not money, but providing the best service.

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