Highlighting: Deaf Interpretive Services

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By Robert Fenbers


Did you know Tri-C is the only college in Northeast Ohio that offers a program in Deaf Interpretive Services (DIS) leading to an associate of applied science degree? The 65 credit program educates students about the deaf community, deaf culture and the art of American Sign Language (ASL). The program’s goal is to prepare students to become sign language interpreters.

Students can expect to be interpreting by the first few classes of the program and are expected to have already completed three levels of ASL. “They’re at a level where their skills should be skills should be sufficient enough to jump right in,” says Donna Liebenauer, program manager.

Liebenauer stresses that while some might find the program fun and fascinating, it is just as demanding. “Not until they’re in it do they really realize how challenging it is,” she says.

A large part of the program is the impact it has on the surrounding community and the deaf community. Whether its silent weekends or gatherings, a student has a chance to embrace the culture and earn their trust as the community welcomes them. Plus, there are many community-based interpreting opportunities as well.

Liebenauer has some advice for those thinking of joining the program, “You’re not going to succeed in the program unless you get out there in the community and start going and getting to know people.”

There are many opportunities upon completion of the program such as K-12, college interpreting and local agency’s that may hire interpreters on a contract or staff basis, as well as video relay interpreting.

The Deaf Interpretive Services program can help students reach their ultimate goal of becoming an interpreter. In 2008, Melissa Ryant explored her interest in the program and found her calling. “I was looking for a sign language class to take to brush up on my skills and I kind of stumbled into the interpreting program and found out its exactly what I wanted to do. Ryant’s brother is deaf, so she was familiar with signing, but she admits at first it was a little overwhelming. “I felt like my skills weren’t up to par,” she said.

Once she settled in, she embraced the language and culture and found herself going to events and quickly became president of the ASL club on campus. “She spear-headed events to raise awareness for the club.

This ITP (Interpreter Training Program) gave Ryant the opportunity that so many dream of, a chance to work for an agency as an interpreter. In fact, Ryant found herself working as an interpreter before she even finished the program.

Currently, Ryant works at Sorenson Communications, which is a video relay service for interpreting as she has found herself to be the bridge connecting the language and cultures for many.

Success stories like Ryant’s are not uncommon as the Deaf Interpretive Services program continues to expand at Tri-C and bring students an opportunity to explore the world of American Sign Language.

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