SPOTLIGHT: Open for interpretation

Deaf woman using sign language

DSU INTR 2018 Grad Association lends a hand to local community

By Aaron Guillen, Staff Reporter


With another semester coming to an end, students may not realize that they might be graduating sooner than expected.

Contrary to most clubs at the college, the DSU INTR 2018 is a course union grad association—a group of students in a grad department that raises funds for graduation. Most, if not all, of the members in DSU INTR 2018 are in the Sign Language Interpretation Program, set to graduate next year. Sandra Saoumaa, president of the DSU INTR 2018 Grad Association, hopes to bring attention to the student community.

“Essentially, it’s a club for our cohorts to gather together and discuss ASL and interpreting-related topics. We run only in ASL for all our entire meetings and get togethers,” said Saoumaa. “Like learning any language, it opens you up to a whole new world of communication, a new culture, and a new community. It’s a really wonderful experience for people who are willing to put in the work.”

Along with Saoumaa, the INTR 2018 Association takes pride in working in the local community as part of their program requirements.

“It’s so we are able to have a better idea of what our work will look like post-graduation. Community members email the college asking for student interpreters, and if they are deemed appropriate, then we can sign up for them. As we aren’t certified [yet], we always go in pairs and the people who we are volunteering with are aware that we are still students,” said Saoumaa.

The thought process behind the club began when a group of students saw that there needed to be a platform for discussing issues and dilemmas around deaf culture, or anything interpreting-related. Saoumaa noted that while they have debriefing time in class with instructors, having their own time is also helpful.

A recent discussion that has arisen is the idea around interpreters who focus on interpreting music.

“One concern of this is that it’s taking the discussion away from the deaf community and from accessibility, and making it more focused on the interpreters as well as showing ASL as more of a performance art than a language connected to a distinct community and culture,” said Saoumaa.

“[While] some deaf people love music and appreciate the interpreters, there are other deaf people who have no interest in music. The wording can be dangerous, as it makes it seem like deaf people are deprived of this magical thing and their worlds are better now because of these amazing interpreters. This, again, continues to oppress the community when [there are] many of them who aren’t interested in music and aren’t missing out on anything.”

Having opened the club only a few months ago, 14 students are already members of the association. Understandably, the small group attends the same classes and plan to graduate together, but they welcome anyone to join in fundraising for their own graduation funds. The INTR 2018 Association has yet to host any event—as they are currently applying for grants—but they plan to buckle down over the summer and create some solid ideas for the upcoming fall semester.


The Other Press

The Other Press, Douglas College's student newspaper since 1976. Articles, insight and updates from the New West and Coquitlam campuses.

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