Brenda Cartwright, M.S., CSC, CI and CT

Dear Encounters With Reality


I interpret at a college and sometimes during the lectures, the Deaf student does not watch me. They may be reading something, texting, or sometimes sleeping. When this happens, I tend to shrink my signing space to conserve my energy but I still keep interpreting the lecture. When the student looks up I bring my signing back to normal. However, when I asked other interpreters how they handle this situation, some said I must keep signing and some said I can stop. What is your opinion?


Deaf students, like hearing students, have a right not to attend to the lecture without drawing attention to themselves. I would not stop signing because that would draw attention to you and therefore to the Deaf student, but I understand reducing your signing space. If the problem is ongoing, ask the Deaf student what they want you to do.


It is your job to interpret the class. Reducing your sign space to conserve energy is fine. Sometimes you may think the Deaf student is not fully paying attention when in fact they are partially attending. If this is about saving energy, maybe you could switch with your partner more often.

 Brenda Cartwright, M.S.M., CSC, CI and CT, has been the Director of the Sign Language Interpreter Program at Lansing Community College for over 30 years. She holds an undergraduate degree from Ball State University and graduate degrees from Ball State and Indiana University. She is a Coda with a bilingual cat named Coda.