Q. Do you prefer to be called Donalyn or Dede?
A. Dede. Nobody calls me Donalyne but my mom. And that’s only when I’m in trouble. I think because I had so many siblings when I was younger and they couldn’t say Donalyne.
Q. What is your job at CSU?
A. I am the coordinator of interpreting services. It entails making sure all the deaf and hearing impaired students and staff have interpreters when they need or have equal access to whatever they need (whether it’s sign language interpreters, oral interpreters, note takers, real time captionist). It’s to make sure that campus does not present them with obstacles to prevent them from learning.
Q. Do you also interpret for students on campus?
A. Yes. I’ve been here fifteen years. I did my internship here and never left.
Q. What got you involved with sign language and the programs at CSU?
A. Well that’s a kind of funny story because growing up I never knew a deaf person and I never knew there was a sign language. When I was 21 we moved to Colorado, and I started working at Foothills Gateway Rehabilitation Center. There were several people there who were nonverbal. Some were deaf and some weren’t, but I wanted to find a way to communicate with those nonverbal people and have them be able to communicate. There was an audiologist who had worked for the Colorado School of Deaf and Blind and so she would teach us sign language during our lunch hours. Then I found out that there was a class at Front Range and so I went to that class and it was taught by a deaf woman. She told me there was a job using sign language which I never heard of a sign language interpreter before. But that’s how I got involved. I took some classes and decided that’s what I wanted to do.
Q. What is the process of becoming an interpreter?
A. I’ve been through the interpreter preparation program. Front Range Community College in Westminster is one of the premier interpreter preparation programs around. It was one of the first ones established in the United States.
Q. So you used to teach American Sign Language. Why do you think that’s an important class?
A. It’s important because there are a lot of people who communicate using American Sign Language. I mean it is third most widely used language in the United States.If more people knew how to communicate with [deaf people] they would be able to be involved in so many more things. How many times do you talk to the people waiting in the lunch line with you, or somebody walking to class? They don’t have that opportunity with just anybody, so the more people they can talk to; the more social they can be.
Q. How would you describe Deaf Culture?
A. Proud of being deaf. Not deafness as a disability, just deafness as having a different way of communicating. Deaf people don’t need fixed.It’s about identity and being proud of who you are.
Q. What are your hobbies?
A. Gardening, crocheting, bubble baths, eating, cooking. Taking care of Bessie, my cow. She gets so excited when she knows I’m in the garden because she knows I’m going to bring her some corn leaves and corn ears, and she just loves those things.
Q. Tell me more about Bessie.
A. Bessie is my cow. I would say she’s probably 950 pounds. She was in the cow herd on the ranch and after her last baby was born she had calcium deficiency and she couldn’t stand up. So we took water and food to her twice a day for three months and she still wasn’t getting up. So one day my husband, Gary, took the shot gun down there because we thought, “she can’t get up, there’s nothing that can be done, she’s a lost cause.” So he got to her, she stood up. So, he put the gun back in the truck and we continued feeding her and giving her water. She’s our watch cow. If I get home and if Gary is not in the yard, I’ll ask her where he’s at, and whatever way she’s facing, east or west, that’s which way he went on the ranch.
Q. Wow, so you live on a ranch. How far away from campus is that?
A. It’s 80 miles. So I drive 160 miles a day. I’ve only been driving that far for five years because before I lived in Loveland. It takes about an hour and forty minutes, but I love my job.
Q. What are your goals for the future?
A. To keep adding more sections of sign language class and I’d love to see a certificate program with the American Sign Language. I think people in the business department, people in the social work department, people in the education department, people in pre-med, pre-law-all of them could really benefit from knowing sign language. Just think if you were deaf and you had to talk to a lawyer about something. Having somebody there communicate with you just makes it a lot more personal.
Q. What is the most rewarding part of your job?
A. Oh man, there’re a lot of them. When students graduate, I cry. Just to see them come in as freshmen and see what kinds of things they learn and watch them grow and watch them mature and watch them blossom is just so cool.When students get excited about sign language and want to learn it. I would teach everybody, everything, all day long if I could.
Q. What is one thing you couldn’t live without?
A. Bubble baths. My pampering for myself is bubble baths with my little dish or chocolate. The other night I ate homemade ice cream with chocolate and Reese’s peanut butter cups in the bath tub.
Q. What’s your favorite food?
A. Meat and potatoes. Mashed potatoes are probably my favorite.
Q. Do you have any funny stories from interpreting?
A. Well we are going to write a book as interpreters and our book’s going to be titled “No I Won’t Hold Your Iguana,” because we get asked to do a lot of things. One time I was interpreting a tennis class and a girl had to bring her iguana because they were inspecting her apartment and she wasn’t allowed to have it, and the teacher kept saying, “Here just hold this.” And I kept saying, “I’m sorry I can’t hold it. My hands are busy.” He kept trying to get me to hold the iguana, because he didn’t get that I needed my hands [to sign].I did have a broken wrist one year and the students said I was stuttering.
Laurel Berch can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.