Lucas King is 29 years old. He is an RID nationally certified ASL interpreter in the Washington, DC metro area with a B.A. in Interpretation from Gallaudet University. Originally from a small town in the rural Midwest, he has studied and worked professionally all across the United States, including cities such as Austin, Texas and Denver, Colorado.
1) How did you become interested in sign language and the world of Deaf people?
I realized in high school that I had a knack for learning languages when I excelled at both Spanish and French. Upon arriving to college, I took an American Sign Language (ASL) course and absolutely fell in love. It was not only fun but I felt I could better express myself through visual language than linear spoken language. I quickly came to embrace the rich culture of the Deaf community and it has been an integral part of my life ever since.
2) What type of studies/training have you chosen in order to qualify as an ASL interpreter?
My education began with several years of ASL courses at my university. I then attended an interpreter training program in Austin, Texas for two years and an additional two years at Gallaudet University where I was able to immerse myself in Deaf culture and ASL on a daily basis to polish my language skills. Mentoring with professional interpreters was also an important aspect of my learning and is still part of my continued studies, as well as attending workshops, conferences and professional development seminars. To obtain RID certification, I had to show evidence of my Bachelors degree and pass an exam consisting of written, performance and ethical evaluations.
3) How would you describe your experience at Gallaudet University?
My experience at Gallaudet University was unique and vibrant, unlike anything else. It was full of challenging days and equally rewarding moments. I encourage ASL students to attend Gallaudet and experience the fully-immersive signing environment if they truly want to become fluent in the language. They will meet Deaf and Hard of Hearing people from all backgrounds and areas of the world. Socializing in the diverse Deaf community on campus will help you understand your hearing privilege and what your role as an ally should look like.
4) What is RID? How do you become a member?
The Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) is a national organization that advocates for best practices in the signed interpretation field and regulates national certification for ASL interpreters. RID supports continued professional development for practitioners and enforces an ethical code of conduct for all working professionals.
5) Is it mandatory in the US to register with a relevant professional association?
In order to maintain RID certification, interpreters are required to pay annual membership dues. There are many other national and local organizations within the interpreting field but membership is not mandatory.
6) Have you noticed similarities between English and ASL syntax?
While English and ASL are two separate languages, they do share certain information such as the same alphabet that is used to manually spell out English words in ASL. ASL grammar is unique from English as it is a visual language and must be produced using 3D signing space. However, signs can also be produced in a more linear fashion, mirroring English grammar, and sometimes called Signed Exact English (SEE). There is a broad spectrum of language use from ASL to SEE and everything in-between that you may see from different Deaf or Hard of Hearing individuals based on their language style, preference or educational background.
7) Do you mostly work as a self-employed professional or also as an employee?
Like most interpreters in the DC area, I work as a self-employed freelance interpreter. There are staff positions available at various agencies, schools, businesses, etc but I prefer the flexibility of creating my own schedule.
8) Which is your preferred field of work?
Most of my work tends to be business/government-related, but I also enjoy medical and performance interpreting.
9) Do you engage in PC or tablet video interpretation?
No. My current living arrangement does not allow for a home office to interpret on video, but I know many interpreters that enjoy working remotely from the comfort of their homes.
10) Do you also offer ASL multimedia translation services (from text to video)?
No. Typically when working on a translation assignment, the best candidate is a CDI (Certified Deaf Interpreter) or a native ASL user. While I can assist with the English analysis, it is always ideal for a native signer to deliver the final product as those individuals have the linguistic and cultural knowledge to provide the best possible translation.
11) Which interpreting services do the US guarantee to Deaf people (i.e. in hospitals, local administration offices, schools, universities, TV)?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) passed in 1990 and ensured that individuals with disabilities had the same access to public life, rights and opportunities as able-bodied individuals without fear of discrimination. The ADA requires effective communication for Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals but also specifies that interpreters must be provided for more in-depth communication needs that can only be relayed in ASL. Examples of these communication needs include medical appointments, court proceedings, university classes, workplace trainings, etc.
12) Does this sole occupation earn you a living?
Yes. I am able to work full-time as an ASL interpreter.
13) Do you ever have the chance to work along with Deaf interpreters?
Yes. Deaf interpreters are needed for specific situations and it is always a special opportunity to work with them. However, most of my work is independent or with a second hearing interpreter.
14) What could your motto be?
The right choice is rarely easy but the easy choice is rarely right.