Interpreters Help Deaf Students Succeed

By Chaz Wilson

About a million people between the ages of 5 and 65 in the Unites States are deaf. Many lack sufficient support, but those pursuing degrees at Texas Tech have a dedicated team on their side.

Carolyn Scott, the lead sign language interpreter at Texas Tech, said she loves her job. She chose to become an interpreter because of experiences in her childhood.

Student Disability Services helps many students succeed on campus.

Student Disability Services helps many students succeed on campus. Picture provided by Student Disability Services.

“I grew up with deaf friends and didn’t want them to feel left out of communication,” Scott said. “I resolved to become an interpreter and provide equal access to the deaf community.”

James Whitfield, the assistant director and interpreter coordinator for Student Disability Services, said all of Texas Tech’s interpreters are certified and have many years of combined experience. Some work full time and some part time.

Interpreters are used mainly for academic purposes, such as interpreting in regularly scheduled classes, Because academic success contributes to students’ overall college experience, having an interpreter can be truly life-changing, Whitfield said.

Students registered with Student Disability Services can also request interpreters for extracurricular activities.

Jess Ingalls, an American Sign Language interpreter at Texas Tech, said the university work environment is unique because it means participating in interactions between groups of students, teachers and students, and advisers and students.

“The job is complex, challenging and rewarding,” Ingalls said. “Every day at work is different, and that is why I love it.”

Scott has interpreted at events such as the press conference announcing Kliff Kingsbury as Tech’s new head coach.

“This aired on ESPN, and I had people across the country contacting me for weeks each time they saw me when the clip re-aired,” Scott said.

As an interpreter, Scott said she is constantly expanding her ASL and English vocabulary as well as observing cultural dynamics.

“I’m a cultural mediator,” Scott said. “I contribute to empowerment.”

This video feature by Angelo Condez, Amy Olivarez, Chris Aguilar and Claudia Della Polla highlights what it is like to be a deaf student at Texas Tech. 

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