Sounds of silence: Interpreter helps deaf with daily struggles
FORT MOHAVE — For Yvonne Salisbury, the sounds of silence have been a struggle her entire life after being born deaf. The biggest obstacle, she said, is day-to-day living within a community where access to continuous interpreting services is limited.
“Well, like when I go to the doctor, the dentist or to get glasses, I need help,” said Salisbury, through interpreter Jasmine Marin, owner of Mohave Sign Language Professional Interpreting Agency. “I can’t communicate with them really well. My English skills are not that great and I don’t read or write sentences, which is common with deaf people because American Sign Language is a different language with different grammar and structure than regular English.”
According to Marin, trips to the grocery store, doctor appointments or even to court, can make someone who is deaf feel trapped and unaware of any help that may be available.
“There are an estimated 100 to 200 deaf people residing within Mohave County,” said Marin. “However, a report from Sorenson, a company that installs TTY phones and devices for the deaf, estimated around 400 residents with hearing impairments reside around the county.”
Marin, who holds a master’s degree in health care and interpreting, saw a need for sign language interpreters after moving with family to Mohave County about 10 years ago.
“I’m certified to work all throughout Mohave County. In the schools, courts, emergency services, wherever the need is,” she said.
Salisbury, and her husband, Jack, who is also deaf, are two of Marin’s clients.
“I see my clients in the most vulnerable moments, when they are at the doctor’s office or the courts,” said Marin. “I am not highly involved with groups and activities because it is a sensitive issue and someone who I may have interpreted for in the hospital or court, may not want to see me in a group setting. However, I would like to see Bullhead City, Kingman, and Lake Havasu City bridge that gap and come together where we could have a good, cohesive deaf community. But, if we aren’t on the same page on all levels, it prevents us from coming together and offering the right services to the deaf community.”
Such services, she pointed out, are bridging the communication gap between the deaf and non-deaf communities in Mohave County.
Jack Salisbury said the biggest roadblocks he faces are the need for more interpreters at local doctors’ offices or at meeting, such as a town hall or council meeting.
“We don’t have the same access as those in the hearing world,” he said. “It is hard for me to vote or get to voice my opinions on topics without having an interpreter available.”
Marin said there are services available, but they have to be requested on both ends of the spectrum.
“Some people in both communities aren’t aware the services are typically available because of a lack of knowledge and communication by both sides. This is what we’d like to see fixed,” she said.
Marin said entering the workforce can be a struggle for someone who is deaf.
“Part of that reason is because they are oppressed, and if they find a job they are often not provide interpreting services,” Marin said. “They don’t want to ask for it because, if they do, they feel afraid they will lose their job. Not only is that a problem here in our county, but nationwide.”
The Americans with Disabilities Act requires that all businesses, public entities, and places have public accommodations, including medical providers, legal providers, mental health and employers and anyone doing business with the public. This includes services for the deaf.
In a world where many can’t speak, it can be terrifying.
Salisbury said she wishes her parents had begun her deaf education at a young age and in a correct forum. She was mainstreamed into public schooling and struggled to understand the English language, along with her four other siblings who were deaf. It wasn’t until she was 20 years old that she went to a deaf school and continued with her education.
“I think for kids when they go to school at 2 years old, they teach them sign language, but they should automatically do that with deaf students,” said Salisbury. “If they try to make them use the oral method and lip-reading, they tend to not be able to read and write. They don’t meet the milestone for literacy and than maybe when they are 12 the parents send them to a deaf school and that is really frustrating because that is when they finally get their access to natural accessible language.
“This is my experience, they would have me practicing sentence structure over and over. They wanted me to learn English, but they kept waiting and delaying my education until I was in my 20s. The teacher use to just speak at me and I couldn’t understand what they were saying which prevented me from having full attention.”
For more information on sign language interpreting in Mohave County, contact Marin at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.mohaveinterpreting.com.