This is a love letter to my favorite terps. The rock stars. The hell-yeah, damn-they're good terps. The ones I love to watch and oft-request. And fortunately oft get. I love ya. Truly, madly, deeply do. When you invite me to your parties and include me in your gatherings, I get all kinds of tingly inside. And when you take my jobs, I feel all kinds of validated. You're the best and you wanna work with me? Sweeeeeet!
Now hold up. Lets put the brakes on this love fest for just a minute.
I'm going to stop writing this love letter to them and talk to you instead. Let me just fold this up for a minute and set it aside. I don't care if you're hearing or Deaf. A terp or not. Or if you're the head of an agency or a regular folk. I just want to have a little vent session and blow some steam.
Relationships are like that right? Full of ups and downs. My love for rock star terps is hitting a rocky patch right now. Getting kinda hard to write a love letter. Feels fake (kiss-kiss-hug-hug) and hella patronizing. I'm going to toss you a diet coke, and we'll crack them open, sit on my couch, and gush on the latest and not so greatest of my current relationship with terps.
Some context is helpful yes? Most of the rock star terps are working in the private sector where the pay is better. Makes sense. Or they're taking jobs in VRS for more stability and benefits. (And I guess the pay can't be too shabby either). Many of the top tier, highly skilled certified terps in Washington state have left the public sector in droves, refusing to contract with the state for a variety of reasons, primarily due to a lower pay rate. I get it.
And .. . It sucks.
It sucks because some of the most difficult jobs and the most vulnerable members of the Deaf community are those who are using interpreters in the public sector. They deserve the very best. Instead of getting the most qualified and skilled interpreters, they are getting some of the most inexperienced interpreters whose skills sets don't match their needs. Or worse still, they're not getting a interpreter at all. Because there's not enough of them who will agree to take the work.
Now I do need to make a fair caveat here: There are still a handful of good interpreters who work in the public sector and take those DSHS jobs, and some of them are also volunteering and contributing to the community. This isn't about them. This isn't even about the mediocire, meh interpreters. Dude, I'll totally write about that another time. For days. Promise.
This is about the ones I love to love.
Sigh. Let me take a sip. This is hard stuff. I need some carbonation to swallow it down with. 'Cos mostly I just want to hurl.
Lets clarify something here; My rock star, hell-yeah, damn-they're good terps I was writing a love letter to aren't taking these public sector jobs any longer, where they are most needed. At least a lot of them aren't. Because they don't want to deal with the "BS" with the ODHH contract. Because they won't settle for being paid less than the private sector. Because of any dozen reasons why working in the public sector sucks.
Whoa. Dude. That's not cool.
So where'd they go and who is using them? Some of the most privileged folks in our community: Deaf professionals.
A large percentage of consumers who use these rock star terps are Deaf professionals who are employed by nonprofits and businesses, and have private health insurance. Some of them are my friends and I've been among them, full disclosure: I have worked for agencies that only hired the best terps. My agency could afford it. And only the best would do for us. This is a problem.
It makes it hard to relate to folks in our community who are getting shitty terps or not getting enough terps all-the-time. It makes it hard for Deaf professionals to get hot and bothered about this ODHH contract and give a damn. We think terps are paid enough. Too much. And we don't look very far into the complexities of this issue because it doesn't really affect us that much. Just our clients.
Boom. Just our clients. So who gives a fuck. Hello privilege, come hang out on the couch with us, here's a Diet Coke. You're going to need it to get the rest of this bitter pill down.
So what the fuck?! My rock star, hell-yeah, damn-they're-good terps are specifically, mainly only taking terp gigs in the private sector, VRS included. They've essentially abandoned the most vulnerable of the Deaf community: The ones who cannot complain and if they do, often are not heard. My friends, Deaf Professionals, are sitting on the sidelines and not doing a damn thing.
This stuff hurts. My beloved rock star, hell-yeah, goddamn-they're-good terps.... the ones I love and adore beyond reason... I'm just going to pick up my pen and start writing that letter again, because I really do love you:
Dear Rock Star Terps,
Well shit, you're part of the problem. A big part. We need you back, in the trenches, taking the jobs you don't want to take, that pay less than the private sector because if you don't, the problem in the public sector gets a whole lot worse and the solutions a whole lot more impossible to find.
Pretty sure I need to cc this to Deaf Professionals. So here we go.
And Deaf professionals who are used to getting decent to awesome terps, you need to get whole lot more pissed off here. Because if you were getting the mediocre and the meh (or no terps at all) and weren't being included in the solution, you'd be pissed. You'd mobilize. You'd raise holy hell and galvanize the community and get.shit.done.
PPS: What the fuck people?