[VIDEO DESC & TRANSCRIPT: June is seated inside a courtroom.
JUNE: The Certified Deaf Interpreter (CDI) is there to make sure communication is equal for everyone in the room. CDIs may be paired with a hearing interpreter, who may have learned American Sign Language (ASL) later in life, most hearing interpreters may be able to catch some signs but sometimes they’ll miss something. Sometimes it’s a facial expression or a little itty bitty signing style. However, as a Deaf person who uses ASL every day — I notice those facial expressions and signing styles all day. I take that information and translate it to give the same meaning. It’s very similar to hearing people with their tone or lack of facial expressions, I also can take that information and translate it back to you with the same meaning. I don’t only interpret for the Deaf community, but also for the hearing interpreters when they missed a word or when they’re not sure about a sign. I work with them and make sure people have access. To give you a better idea, I use ASL to the max as a Deaf person. I do use English but only up to a certain level. I don’t have full access to English and I’m fine admitting that. Hearing interpreters who have full access to English only use ASL up to a certain level. They don’t have full access to ASL. So when you put the two of us together, Deaf and hearing interpreters, people will have full access to both ASL and English — and that is incredible.
Black and white clip of June signing to someone off screen in a court room. In the center, a white border surrounds white text “JUNE” underneath, appears in white text “CERTIFIED DEAF INTERPRETER – LEGAL -”
JUNE: Hello, my name is June Prusak. I’m Deaf and I am a Certified Deaf Interpreter (CDI) at the Circuit Court of Cook County.
Black and white close up clip of June’s hands as she signs to someone off screen.
JUNE: I grew up here in the southside of Chicago. I found a job working for a youth program and did so for about 12 and a half years.
Black and white clip of June signing to someone off screen in a court room.
JUNE: Someone had suggested that I become a deaf interpreter which surprised me because honestly, I didn’t know what a CDI did. Ironically, around that time, Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) was hosting a big national conference in Chicago. I took an opportunity to check it out at nights because I was working during the day. As I talked with some of the attendees, I realized that I had already done some “interpreting” at the youth program with the children I worked with. I made sure kids understood and that the communication wasn’t an issue. I also have Deaf parents — when they didn’t understand something, I would try to explain it in a way that they would. So I figured why not get paid to do something I already do? I started researching and I realized that I wanted to become a CDI. I took the test and passed it! From there, I would shif between two jobs, the youth program and taking CDI assignments in the community. That meant assignments with hospitals, doctors, law enforcement, various meetings and Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meetings. As I worked both jobs, I realized that things with the youth program was evolving — I mean, the times were changing and the economy for youth programs was changing. I decided to become a full time freelance interpreter which meant I had to find my own assignments, market myself, and develop my own business cards.
Black and white clip of June typing something on her phone in front of glass windows in a high rise building.
JUNE: I had worked on several contract assignments with the Circuit Court of Cook County and eventually they asked me if I was interested in becoming a full-time staff as a CDI. Judge Evans really liked the idea of guaranteeing that the courtroom will have a dedicated CDI on staff everyday. And look at me now, I’ve been here for four years as a full-time CDI on staff.
Black and white close up clip of June signing to someone off screen.
JUNE: I’ve taken different workshops — medical, legal, and DeafBlind training. I did this to build knowledge and skills because even when I work in legal, sometimes during a case someone will mention a surgical procedure or someone is suing something that’s medically related — I will know because I took these training workshops. You never know when you’ll need the extra knowledge.
Black and white close up of June signing to someone off screen.
JUNE: Being in the courtroom can be stressful, maybe you’re thinking “I might be in trouble.” Or maybe you want to sue, but you’re not sure how. Or you feel agitated because you’re about to testify about something you saw. Sometimes you can’t help but rely on what’s natural to you — which is signing. When you’re nervous, your signing may be affected. However, when a CDI is placed in the courtroom, it will take some of the pressure off because then you’re able to communicate what comes naturally to you. As a CDI, I’m able to make eye contact, share facial expressions, and follow your exact tone.
Black and white clip of June signing to someone off screen. White text appears at the bottom center, ‘Having a CDI with you, in the room, removes one layer of stress so you can focus on the situation rather than worry about communication barriers.’ – June” and a light blue line outlines the left side of the text.
JUNE: When we get a new client, this means we don’t know their communication preferences — it’s my responsibility to schedule a communication assessment. This means I will determine if they need a CDI or an ASL interpreter. I’ll need to determine if they need both a CDI and an ASL interpreter, a Communication Access Real-time Translation (CART), assistive listening device, or if they need all of the resources we provide. They can request anything they need, we don’t decline a request to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Black and white clip of June typing on her phone in front of glass windows in a high rise building.
JUNE: Once a person enters our system, we stay with them through every court date and make sure their services are met at every stage of the process until they are done. Sometimes a probation process takes two years, this means we stay with them and provide accommodations they requested until their case is done.
Black and white clip of June signing to someone off screen.
JUNE: If you’re curious of what it would look like to interpret something, you could try watching a favorite TV show for 30 minutes. It will be captioned so go ahead and read the captions and sign it out while recording yourself on video. You’ll be able to see for yourself what it feels like to interpret.
Black and white clip of June signing to someone off screen. Black and white clip of June standing in front of glass windows in a high rise building.
Video cuts to grey background with the NAD logo quickly changing in different bright colors from teal to white to black to hot pink to green to orange to teal to yellow to purple to finally the official NAD logo with copyright text underneath “The National Association of the Deaf (c) 2019 All Rights Reserved”.]