This coming holiday season has generated a number of social media posts by people sharing their gratitude for the many blessings bestowed upon them. We can all appreciate the spirit of the holidays. As I reflect over this past year, my thoughts center on Communication Service for the Deaf (CSD), a nonprofit organization that I am fortunate to serve as a team member. We celebrated our 40th anniversary on November 1. This significant milestone could not have been possible without the support of partners who share our mission and core values.
I worked with CSD in 2001–2007 and was afforded the opportunity to return to this highly passionate, service-driven organization in 2012. Over my years at CSD, I cannot count the number of organizations we have collaboratively allied with to fulfill our mission. CSD recognizes that developing partnerships with others in the community strengthens our ability to achieve our goals. An excellent example of this is our collaboration with over 15 sister agencies in promoting the launch of Who Will Answer, a campaign dedicated to raising funds to make a 24/7 domestic violence hotline for the deaf and hard of hearing. We identified a need, and then together, we created nationwide awareness through social media and our shared networks.
CSD has recently evolved into a technology-centric organization. Until two years ago, we relied on external resources to define and create solutions to the challenges faced by our community. One of the opportunities we identified in moving towards technology is a turn-key solution that empowers deaf and hard of hearing individuals to choose their own sign language interpreter, Vineya. Vineya is the next generation solution to providing sign language interpreters for the deaf and hard of hearing community.
Our goal is to ensure that every deaf person has access to a sign language interpreter, no matter where they are located. We cannot do this alone.
As quoted by Helen Keller, “Alone, we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
CSD is leveraging partnerships with highly respected and reputable organizations throughout the U.S. and internationally who share our core values and believe in empowering deaf individuals to choose. One of the main lessons I have learned at CSD is that collaboration can solve broad challenges. This is made possible by leveraging each partner organization’s “core competencies” — that is, what it already does best. This includes intangible competencies like the credibility that comes with earned mutual trust and respect. CSD recognizes we cannot be present in every geographical location, but we can align with local organizations that have the existing expertise and resources needed to bring about positive change.
I believe it is in the best interest of organizations dedicated to social responsibility to promote a new paradigm and practice of collaboration. We can do more when we break down the traditional silos that divide governments, organizations and communities. We can and will continue to create innovative solutions by establishing alliances with entities that share a strong desire to positively impact the lives of deaf and hard of hearing people.
— AnnMarie Killian
Senior Account Executive
In my work with Communication Service for the Deaf (CSD), clients often ask me my recommendations on how companies can improve the overall experience for their deaf and hard of hearing employees and customers. These questions are fantastic, especially as it gives me the ability to educate decision makers on the entire breadth of services available and advise them to have an open and honest discussion with their employees to identify employee needs and their ability to choose how they want to access communication.
Who am I to make the decision on which services are best for any deaf and hard of hearing consumers, regardless of whether they are an employee, customer or patient? There are a number of extenuating factors to take into consideration (e.g., personal preferences, residual hearing, etc.).
I’ve also been asked countless times my thoughts on video remote interpreting (VRI).
It’s an excellent tool but not right for every situation.
It’s an important opportunity to reiterate the decision on whether to use on-site interpreters or VRI should not fall on the decision maker; it should be given to the consumer utilizing the services.
But why should we stop there?
Shouldn’t we make a concerted effort to ensure consumers have the ability to select their own interpreters, let alone whether they prefer to use an on-site interpreter or interpreter through VRI?
When my father was in and out of doctors’ offices and hospitals due to treatment for multiple myeloma, a cancer of the bone marrow, he was fortunate to have an oncologist who was quite receptive to his needs for communication and consistency, especially as he fully appreciated how difficult and time consuming it was to re-explain the condition and treatment plans to an interpreter. Unfortunately, these experiences were not the same for my father when he visited specialists or stayed in different hospitals for extended periods of time for treatment.
As a result, while my father was battling multiple myeloma, he also battled a system of oppression, one he referred to as being “broken.”
Much like our hearing counterparts can choose which cell phone provider they would like to use, deaf and hard of hearing individuals have the ability to choose which video relay service (VRS) provider they want to utilize for their phone calls. However, when it comes to accessing sign language interpreting services, consumers are often not given the decision-making ability to select which interpreter they would like to use, let alone the method of interpreting services utilized: on-site or VRI.
Unfortunately, many deaf and hard of hearing people have been forced to succumb to the choices of decision makers — decisions I have seen first-hand more often than not are either financially driven or a byproduct of misguided, anecdotal information being shared.
Surely, the perspectives of sign language interpreting agencies must be taken into consideration; there are cost controls and overhead to consider. More often than not, bids are won based on lowest price. As interpreter rates often correlate with certifications and/or licenses held by interpreters, this often leaves interpreting agencies with two options: 1) negotiate rates with interpreters to maximize margins or 2) the unfortunate circumstance in which an agency will send a lesser-credentialed interpreters who may or may not meet minimum standards and may also not be a good fit for the assignment(s) in question.
As a result of the latter, two groups of stakeholders suffer: 1) the deaf and hard of hearing consumers and 2) the companies.
While deaf and hard of hearing consumers may object to the interpreters selected or method of interpreting for the particular assignment for whatever reasons, their objections may fall on deaf ears — no pun intended — for various reasons mentioned previously.
On the flip side, companies’ concerns for cost control while also ensuring they are ADA complaint must be taken into consideration. However, companies may actually pay more money due to interpreters not being qualified or having the required skillset to handle assignments. This, in turn, leads to inefficient communication and, then, the need for more interpretation services. In this particular instance, while consumers and companies lose out on time and money, the agencies may benefit financially.
Prior to joining CSD, I often asked myself, “What if there was a solution that disrupted this status quo while raising standards and improving the experience for all involved?”
But as the saying goes, people don’t know what they don’t know.
At the time, I had no idea I would be looking back after two and a half years with CSD saying I’m blessed to work for a phenomenal organization that just recently celebrated its 40th anniversary and is committed to “reimagining communication” for deaf and hard of hearing people.
During the time my father was battling cancer, CSD was working on Vineya, the first online marketplace that exclusively features certified interpreters. A month after I joined the CSD team, Vineya was launched to the public.
Since launching, Vineya has grown tremendously with new features to meet the various needs of consumers, interpreters and companies, as well as agencies who have partnered with CSD to make Vineya accessible to their consumers. I look forward to working with existing agencies through partnerships. Vineya cannot replace the artistry involved in complicated scheduling situations – it can only enhance the process.
When thinking back to my father’s frustrating experiences in securing interpreting services during his ordeal with cancer, it’s a reminder of why I am passionate about the work I do every day. My father would have loved Vineya, the ability to choose which interpreters he would have liked to use, as well as whether he would have liked to use an on-site interpreter or interpreter through VRI.
There were situations where he asked me to stay late at the hospital during extended stays to ensure communication occurred smoothly due to not having an interpreter. He would often say, “I wish I had an interpreter through VRI for 15 minutes so you could go home and get some rest.” But at the same time, there were situations where he vehemently renounced a hospital’s decision to only offer VRI to him, especially preceding medical procedures, etc.
The answer: consumer choice.
It is time to question the status quo, is it effective, accessible communication? Is it empowering deaf and hard of hearing people to make the choices they want?
Disruptive innovations like Vineya can be scary, but like Uber, NetFlix and Airbnb disrupted their respective industries, Vineya is challenging the status quo by enabling choice for sign language interpreting services.
At the forefront of developing technological innovations, CSD was the first to introduce this disruptive technology. While first to go to market, CSD will not be the last. Technology is the wave of the future, and the time is ripe for the community at large to give deaf and hard of hearing individuals the ability to choose how they access communication.
Wayne Dyer, a best-selling author and motivational speaker, said it best, “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” When it all comes down to it, we all have choices to make. I hope you make the choice to join me in empowering others to be able to fully appreciate the value of choice when it comes to sign language interpreting services.
— Corey Axelrod
Senior Account Executive
By David Bahar
A New York Daily News article  revealed continuing problems in the New York Police Department with respect to the accommodations it provides to the deaf and hard-of-hearing. As a public entity, the NYPD has obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act to provide qualified individuals with a disability with effective communication. For deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals that use American Sign Language, the definition of effective communication can include a sign language interpreter.
However, for both Diana Williams and Robert Rapa, sign language interpreters were not provided during their initial encounters with the police, or during their time at the police station. Surprisingly, the officer arresting Diana went so far as to indicate on the arrest report that an interpreter was not needed, and that she did not have a disability.
Since its inception in 1975, Communication Service for the Deaf (CSD) has provided sign language interpreting services. This has been a fundamental part of who we are as an organization throughout the span of our company’s history. CSD’s market presence for ASL interpreting has expanded dramatically over the years from a service that was locally focused in southeastern South Dakota to one that has a nationwide scale and reach today.
DEAF, Inc. is our first partner in providing interpreting services through Vineya. We are very proud of this partnership because they are an organization that shares our values in deaf empowerment and providing quality interpreters.
It has been and continues to be a wonderful privilege to serve the community in the great state of Minnesota. For nearly 20 years, Communication Service for the Deaf (CSD) has had a significant presence in the state as an employer, a provider of programs and services, and as a participating and contributing member of your community. We are proud to be in Minnesota, and we look forward to being an active supporter of the Minnesota deaf community in the years to come.
The world has changed significantly since CSD first began providing services in the state in the 1990s. Technology has transformed (and is continuing to transform) the way we communicate and interact with the world around us. CSD has always sought to use new technology in ways that can directly enhance the life experience of our community. CSD’s role in introducing the first nationwide video relay service (VRS) is a noteworthy example. For many deaf people, VRS completely replaced older text or TTY-based relay services. VRS dramatically improved the quality of communication between a signing deaf caller and the voice user on the receiving end by allowing a deaf person to communicate more naturally and effectively in their native language.
CSD has always sought to use new technology in ways
that can directly enhance the life experience of our community.
Today, CSD is still hard at work innovating ways to further improve communication and access to vital programs and services. In recent years, we have gone through a significant transformation as a company to strengthen our ability to develop technology-centered solutions for the deaf and hard of hearing community. We want to create more employment opportunities for deaf people. We believe there should be universal access to communication, regardless of where and when access is needed. We want to support and strengthen all organizations that provide essential community-facing programs and services. We also want to impact deaf people beyond the borders of this country, and our aspiration is to affect positive change for the entire community worldwide.
These are big and ambitious goals that we have set for ourselves. All of us at CSD are fiercely committed to this vision for our community’s future. However, this cannot and will not be successful if we pursue it alone. As an organization, our service model must evolve, and we must invest in community and organizational partnerships. We must engage the support and participation of our community in order to achieve the kind of future we believe is possible. Together, we can accomplish so much more.
LEFT TO RIGHT: Jimmy Beldon, Christopher Soukup, Pat Myers, Patty McCutcheon, Brandi Rarus.
We are pleased to announce that CSD has formed a major, long-term partnership with Keystone Interpreting Solutions (KIS) to expand statewide access to quality sign language interpreting services throughout the state of Minnesota. We believe that KIS shares our core values and that they exist for the purpose of supporting and serving the deaf, deafblind, and hard of hearing community. KIS co-founders Jimmy Beldon and Patty McCutcheon have deep roots in the state and have been leaders in the interpreting profession for decades. They have both been recognized locally, as well as nationally, for their contributions to the field of interpreting and for their contributions to the community.
CSD has formed a long-term partnership with Keystone Interpreting Solutions (KIS) to expand access to quality sign language interpreting services in Minnesota.
KIS will be focusing on local relationship management and will be leading the local delivery of services. CSD will be transitioning responsibility for the customers that we support today in Minnesota to KIS. They will be expanding their operation in Minnesota to ensure the total needs of interpreters, customers and the deaf community are being fully supported. KIS will be relocating to the current CSD office in St. Paul and will be co-located with CSD’s local community-facing programs: adult basic education; ASL training; and domestic violence advocacy, awareness and prevention.
CSD is thoroughly committed to supporting our partner, KIS, as well as the entire Minnesota community during this period of change and transition. We are working closely with KIS to introduce next-generation solutions for improving delivery of on-site interpreting services and, when appropriate, quality access to video interpreting as a resource. CSD has been developing web and mobile software designed to improve the service experience for everyone involved in the delivery of interpreting services from the customer to the interpreter to the deaf community end users. We will be making this technology available statewide in Minnesota through our new partnership with KIS.
CSD remains devoted to the community in Minnesota, and we are thrilled to be able to deepen our roots in the state by expanding our operational presence through our new partnership with KIS. Members of our national leadership team will be spending time in Minnesota in the weeks ahead to provide additional information—both about our local presence, as well as our global vision for our community.
CSD remains devoted to the community in Minnesota,
and we are thrilled to be able to deepen our roots in the state.
Thank you all for being a part of our journey. We deeply appreciate your support and your contributions to our wonderful community.
Chief Executive Officer
We are pleased to announce that Willie King has been hired to serve as our new Chief Technology Officer (CTO).
Willie began his career at CSD after studying engineering at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in 2002. Willie spent the first part of his career in IT-specific roles in help desk, system administration, and system engineering. He comes home to CSD after eight years of progressively responsible experience at ZVRS. Most recently, he has served as Director of Product Management supporting a full portfolio of video relay service product offerings. In his role as Director, Willie was responsible for supporting relationships with a number of large government and corporate customers and industry partners including Glide, Apple, and Google.
In his new capacity as CTO, Willie will lead the optimization of a central technology strategy for CSD—both in terms of the IT infrastructure that supports our day to day operation and the products we are building in pursuit of our #csdvision.
With Vineya, you’re able to choose the ASL interpreter that’s the best fit for you every single time. Watch this tutorial and learn how you can take control of the interpreting process and get the American Sign Language Interpreter that’s right for you!
Vineya is the first online marketplace of certified ASL interpreters for the deaf and hearing. In looking for our inspiration for Vineya we turn to Martha’s Vineyard, a place with a special history. Join us as Patrick Graybill shares our inspiring take on the link between Vineya and Martha’s Vineyard. Learn more at www.GoVineya.com