Hearing interpreter turns tables on Madonna University audience

Hello, I’m Christian Young from Michigan and I’ll be contributing a news story for The Daily Moth.

About three weeks ago, Danny McDougall who’s a hearing interpreter and is the chairperson of the Sign Language Studies department at Madonna University, posted a tweet that went viral. He had a presentation where he needed to be assigned an ASL interpreter. When they were unable to find one, Danny went ahead with the presentation but using only ASL.

I interviewed him along with two deaf assistant ASL professors about their experience during the presentation.

DANNY MCDOUGALL: There were three faculty giving presentations and I was the third one of the bunch. What happened was that one week before the presentation, I accepted the invitation to present. The presentation was focused on my experience in theatre as a shadow interpreter. I’d been researching about the topic for five years. That was the topic of the presentation. As I was planning out my presentation, I started to wonder if there would be an interpreter there. I contacted the event organizer who didn’t think I needed an interpreter. I already knew that deaf people would come to the presentation. They contacted the interpreter agency three days prior to the presentation trying to find someone who would interpret for the whole presentation. Our interpreter office tried to find one. The event organizer tried to find one. I tried to find an interpreter with no luck.

I decided on maybe backing out, but it was last minute so I decided not to do that because it’s important to show the Deaf’s stories and show my research. I decided to proceed by using ASL. Here in academics, they tend to emphasize using predominantly English but why not turn the tables? Why not make ASL the priority?

[Tweet by @TerpTheatre: “Event Organizer:

We're sorry, there won't be interpreters at the event where you are presenting about Deaf things, sign language, and interpreting.

Me: No problem, I'll present in ASL without interpretation. Hearing people will have to get by.

EO: Ummm …”]

JENNIFER BERRIGAN: It feels good. I could see the reaction of the people in the audience and their body behavior. With hearing presenters, hearing people would just sit back and relax. Danny told everyone that there would be no interpreter provided and that he would use only ASL for the deaf people in attendance. He explained that it was hearing people’s turn to experience what deaf people endure using his PowerPoint slides. Those hearing people started to really paying attention as you could see from their body language. It was their turn to figure out what was happening. The PowerPoint slides Danny was using was more focused on visuals with brief texts included. You could see these hearing people taking advantage of every visual information they could get.

It was nice how we finally switched roles where they experienced what we experience every day.

BRETAGNE FREEL WHITFORD: Having that just happened was good for them and it should happen because they need to understand the deaf experience and our perspectives. Most of them would just apologize whenever an interpreter wasn’t provided, that maybe next time would be better or they would just go along with their plans.

So if they were able to see what deaf people often experience, it means they could become more “deaf friendly”.

CHRISTIAN: Wow, you really turned the tables. I wonder if what would you do if an ASL interpreter wasn’t provided: postpone or go ahead with your event?