Hearing aides

Name: Charlene Barnett-Forde and Wendy Thompson
Ages: 30 and 42, respectively
Occupation: Sign language interpreters
Location: Bronx, New York
Duties: “Creating a passageway for deaf people to be incorporated into society,” says Forde, vice president of Kuumba, Inc., a multiservice organization that assists the deaf community

In 1996, after practicing sign language for 11 years, Thompson saw a need for it to be included in music videos. “My deaf friends couldn’t enjoy the music being played in the videos, so I set out to form an entertainment company that incorporated sign language,” she says. Thompson teaches a yearlong sign language course, develops workshops and recruits talent for the entertainment aspect of the company. Forde recruits interpreters for various projects and provides personal image consulting for individuals and corporations.

Salary: While there’s no limit to the amount of money a sign language interpreter can earn, it largely depends on years of experience and certification. Most interpreters are freelancers working with agencies and can make as little as $17 to as much as $100 an hour. Full-time employment can be found in government agencies, schools, hospitals and major corporations.

Training: Look for classes on linguistics and the technical aspects of American Sign Language at your local community college. Or, visit the Website for the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (www.rit.edu/NTID).

For more information about this career, contact:

  • Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf Inc., 8630 Fenton Street, Suite 324, Silver Spring, MD 20910; 301-608-0050 (v/tty); www.rid.org.
  • The National Alliance of Black Interpreters, P.O. Box 70322, New Orleans, LA 70172; 504-943-6597; www.naobi.org.
  • Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, 3417 Volta Place, N.W., Washington, DC 20007; 202-337-5220 (v/tty); www.agbell.org.
  • The National Black Deaf Advocates, www.nbda.org.
  • National Black Association for Speech Language and Hearing; www.omhrc.gov/mhr2/orgs/9300193.html.
  • National Christian Conference for the Deaf, P.O. Box 861, Bronx, NY 10466-0304
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