Is National Interpreter Appreciation Day a Trigger?

By Mary Pat Luetke-Stahlman

There are many ways that different organizations celebrate National Interpreter Appreciation Day. In 2018, GoReact partnered with StreetLeverage to celebrate National Interpreter Appreciation Day. On the GoReact website, they had a message for interpreters:

“If you are a sign language interpreter, then today is your day. Every first Wednesday of May is National Interpreter Appreciation Day. Our team at GoReact is deeply grateful for all the sign language interpreters who’ve made a huge difference in our office and our lives. Thank you to every ASL interpreter out there who works so hard every day.” (GoReact)

The Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf has looked at this as an opportunity to recognize interpreters and their hard work throughout the year by giving away three registrations. “*GIVEAWAY* To celebrate National Interpreter Appreciation Day, RID is excited to offer a chance to receive a complimentary or steeply discounted registration for the 2019 national conference in Providence, Rhode Island July 7th-11th!” (RID)

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There are people in the community that have reacted adversely to the concept of National Interpreter Appreciation Day. Treean River posted on his Facebook stating that there is a trigger behind this “day of appreciation”. "I saw a post “National Interpreters Appreciation” on Facebook this morning. It was a trigger for me!! I'm not comfortable because I had bad experiences with some ASL students and Interpreters. I have struggled and I don’t want to write a post about it on my Facebook profile.” Treean River

As an ASL mentor, he also mentioned that he has never been “thanked or appreciated” for his work.

Other community members spoke out in an email to The Deaf Report. “Instead of using the day to educate the world about the interpreting profession, it has become a day of self-gratification”, said Julie Baker. “I am concerned about the community continuing to get interpreters that care only about being in the center of attention. With the seemingly growing pool of unqualified interpreters, the community is at risk for misrepresentation and humiliation in various scenarios. I don’t wish to celebrate this day, but rather look at it as a day of recognition of our struggles and need for continued development of the profession.”

Some interpreters have responded to this in a very positive light including some that are current interpreters. While they appreciate being recognized, they also thank the community for their jobs because they say they are privileged to be able to be a part of this profession and community.

“In solidarity with community members triggered by interpreter appreciation day bc of whatever harm they may have experienced in their life by someone's unqualified /oppressive choices. I'm with you, hoping to constantly unpack any harm I've caused/am causing. Now in my 12th year in this field, I look back and see so many well-intentioned mistakes. 
I continue to unpack my privilege and bias and learn how to show solidarity better. Thank you to the community for loving me enough to be transparent with me when I falter and by believing that I was worth the investment.” (Monica Gallego)

Some community members have emphasized their confusion of how the day should be labeled. Interpreters have been very clear that they have been trying to model their registration and certification requirements after the Bar and Medical Board.

Those professions have different ways of having “a day of appreciation”. Lawyers have a “Be Kind to Lawyers Day”, doctors have “Doctor Day” and these days are to bring recognition to the profession. Doctors in India uses “Doctors Day” to observe various themes such as in 2018, the theme was "zero tolerance to violence against doctors and clinical establishment".

Becky Stuckless, a Child of Deaf Adult (CODA) and interpreter, made a vlog sharing her thoughts about being thanked for doing her job when it is a community-based profession. Without the community, there would be no need for interpreters, so to be elevated on this day is something that is conflicting for many CODAS. Facebook profile.” Treean River