Transition to a Professional Organization – Brief Background and Rationale

Transition to a Professional Organization – Brief Background and Rationale

Hello! Last month in the April 2020 Board of Directors meeting, the board passed a motion stating that RID Headquarters and Board of Directors will actively investigate the processes and strategies behind transitioning RID from a Member Driven Association to a Professional Certifying Organization. We know many people are interested in learning more about the history and rationale behind this motion. For that, we’ll have to go back to the very beginnings of RID.

In 1964, RID was established as a professional organization. Membership was part of the organization, but it was not member-driven. RID’s Article of Incorporation states six goals for the organization:

  • to provide a national organization responsible for developing the skills of interpreters and translators for the deaf;
  • to teach and educate persons to become interpreters and translators for the deaf;
  • to prepare, maintain, distribute a registry of accredited interpreters and translators,
  • to develop uniformity and standardization of skills among interpreters and translators for the deaf,
  • to assist in developing the language of signs to prepare a guideline of terminology applicable to the various aspects of interpreting and translating, and to publish literature regarding the various aspects of interpreting and translating for the deaf,
  • and in connection therewith, to raise funds and provide services to support the education and training of interpreters for the deaf; and to apply substantially all of the Corporation’s net revenue to this purpose.

In the beginning, the organizational decisions were made based on advice from the Deaf community and the needs of the field of interpreting as a whole. RID members were heavily involved in decisions, but did not formally drive those decisions. Overtime, RID evolved into a member-driven organization, the most significant changes happening in the late 1980s. The membership wanted to be more involved and so by 1990, RID was a member-driven organization. The membership was small, laws and standards were few, and there was still much to discover. Thirty years later, the landscape of our profession has drastically changed. Numerous laws exist related to access and interpreting, RID’s membership has grown exponentially, and the standards and expectations around our field have risen.

For thirty years, RID has struggled to serve two masters – the RID membership (largely white, hearing, non-heritage interpreters) and Deaf communities. Ultimately, we’ve pleased neither. Calling ourselves a member-driven organization when our values, vision, and mission statements clearly aim to serve Deaf communities causes confusion and resentment on all sides.

When we shifted to a member-driven organization, it meant a shift away from Deaf perspectives. This rift has grown over time. For decades, the conversation around returning to our roots has gone around and around, resulting in some small steps (such as the board’s commitment to honor our Roots in 2013) and large steps (suspending certification that no longer adequately met current standards in 2015).

Lately, this conversation has come to a head recently as RID sought to apply for accreditation for our certification and was told we are not eligible. Being a member-driven organization essentially comprises the certification, since members have power over certification standards, which includes our ethical practices and professional development requirements. Members can – and have – made motions to change the certification program, motions that have detracted from the values and mission of RID, and even motions that threatened the stability and health of the organization. This puts our certification, and truthfully our entire organization, on a foundation made of sand.

We acknowledge we are at crossroads, and have been sitting here for decades steadily building on top of a foundation that neither truly serves Deaf communities with our full power and might nor is truly member-driven. RID exists to serve Deaf communities and to promote the highest standards in the field. But the very fact that we are membership-driven detracts from our ability to meet our original goal- particularly when decisions are made and motions are passed that threaten our fundamental and core purpose. It is time to return to our roots.

This board has made a formal decision to explore what this transition would look like. Right now, there are many questions around this idea. We need your involvement because we don’t have the answers to these questions. The answers can only be found together. We will be hosting multiple town halls – all are welcome. Please join in the discussion! Together we will explore how to return to our roots to grow in our service of Deaf communities.