Using Popular Education with the Oppressor Class: Suggestions for Sign Language Interpreter Education


  • Wyatte C. Hall, Ph.D.
  • Thomas K. Holcomb, Ph.D. Ohlone College
  • Marlene Elliott, CI/CT University of Massachusetts Medical School



Interpreter Education, American Sign Language, Popular Education, Deafness, Social Justice, Collectivism, Deaf Culture, Individualism, Power, Self Determination, Oppression, Practice Profession, Interpreting Ally


The Deaf community is an oppressed sociolinguistic, collectivist minority that primarily uses sign language. Interpreters are frequently used to bridge the gap between the members of the Deaf community and hearing people. In the past, many of these interpreters were raised in Deaf households with Deaf family members, or had other close connections to the Deaf world. However, the establishment of training programs in the 1970s reoriented sign language interpreter education to the academic classroom. This removed Deaf cultural values and norms from interpreter development. Deaf community members are increasingly unsatisfied with perceived culturally inappropriate and oppressive behaviors by academically trained interpreters. Popular Education is proposed as a way to remediate the negative effects of the individualist-based hearing academic reorientation, which can create Language Technicians. Allies, interpreters who strive for social justice and Deaf empowerment, can be created through Popular Education-centered interpreter programs.

Author Biography

Wyatte C. Hall, Ph.D.

National Center for Deaf Health Research, University of Rochester Medical Center