I was asked my opinion on a Facebook discussion about interpreting for the DeafBlind, I couldn't believe what I was reading! Here's a rewrite of that post (not naming the group or the source).
"Should DeafBlind people tell their SSP or interpreter that they are sick or contagious? Do interpreters and SSPs have the right to protect themselves and refuse to do the assignment? Even if it leaves the DeafBlind person without communication access and more?"
What were you Expecting?
I have one sentence for y'all!
You signed up for this!
What were you thinking when you wanted to be an SSP or interpreter for the DeafBlind?
An SSP's job is to guide, inform them of their surroundings, people and noise happening, some minor interpreting, and more.....depending on the client - this is mostly hands-on.
As for interpreters if you're worried about getting sick - don't accept the assignment in the first place, or stick with Deaf-only clients. Don't arrive to your assignment only to abandon them.
Many professionals know what they're getting into when they read the job description - nurses, medical assistants, dental assistants, physical and occupational therapists, personal care aides and so on and on. Why not SSPs and DeafBlind interpreters?
The Suggestions & Excuses
Here's a list of some of the suggestions and excuses folks gave:
Let me answer those:
Preparation is the Key
Now, I don't think it should be required that the DeafBlind client tell their SSPs or interpreters that they are sick, but I know many would be courteous to do so. I would personally tell my SSP if I have or had a cold or other symptoms or I would have cancelled any appointments and outings if I'm still sick.
In the case of the Deafblind client needing to go to the doctor or hospital because they're sick - you know where the assignment is and can prepare beforehand (take extra vitamins, wash hands more diligently, or just turn down the assignment).
It's hard to pinpoint that you got sick directly from your DeafBlind client - there are other people, the environment, the bathroom door you touched, the handrail, and so many more. Don't stick it on us eh?
What you're Insinuating
It's my opinion that the fact this discussion even came up just isolates the DeafBlind community even more.
There are approximately 30,000 to 40,000 adult Deafblind folks in the United States, the number of DeafBlind served per year vary from 5 to 80+ based on the 30 states who responded to inquiries on services provided.
5 to 80+ DeafBlind clients served in each of the 30 states!
Out of 30 to 40 thousand "Deafblind" people?
I know that not all deafblind will require SSPs or even interpreting, but still that's a very low number of SSPs. I also know that many DeafBlind are independent and can and are fully capable of managing on their own. Then there's the small factor that don't even know that SSP services exist and rely solely on family for what little information they need and spend the rest of the time in isolation. (Then there's another group who have refused to do anything except mope alone about being deafblind - but not going there).
My point is, those DeafBlind - the independent ones, the ones with SSPs and are out participating in life to the fullest - face a lot of resistance from the hearing-sighted world (and even the Deaf-sighted) and now these people who are supposed to be working for us, our allies, are questioning whether to dump us or not?
Seriously, that's how I see it.
You signed up for this, take precautions and grow the hell up.