BIPOC Providers Part One: ASL Interpreters

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How does language mediate and affect access to crucial information and spaces? Why might the identity of the interpreter matter? Join us as our guest speakers explore the importance of representation and cultural sensitivity in our decisions about who to hire. Learn how the lived experiences of our ASL interpreters can impact the accessibility of our content, and the experiences of our audience. 

Speakers

Benro Ogunyipe, MPA, Benro Ogunyipe served for six years as president, vice president, and chair of the board of National Black Deaf Advocates, Inc. He is the author of Black Deaf Culture Through Lens of History, a short commentary on the history, culture, and education of Black Deaf People for the Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP) supported by the U.S. Department of Education. He also writes stories, accomplishments, and recognition of the Black Deaf Community.

Benro currently serves as the Executive Director of the Illinois Deaf and Hard of Hearing Commission. He previously worked for the Illinois Department of Human Services as Senior Accessibility Specialist, Reasonable Accommodation Specialist, and Investigator of the ADA/Section 504 Discrimination Complaints for 17 years. In 2014 and again in 2016, U.S. President Barack Obama appointed Benro to the National Council on Disability. Benro was also appointed by three different Illinois Governors to public bodies and was an appointed board member of the National Association of the Deaf. He is a seasoned guest lecturer at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Disability Studies and Columbia College Chicago’s Interpreter Training Program on Multicultural Issues. 

Benro received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Gallaudet University and a Master of Public Administration (M.P.A.) degree from DePaul University, School of Public Service. 

Melva Flores is a Trilingual (American Sign Language, English and Spanish) Interpreter of Puerto Rican decent. She received her B.A. in ASL-English interpretation from Columbia College of Chicago in 2000. Melva has been interpreting for almost 24 years and holds the Illinois Master Level Interpreter Licensure and the National Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf Certificate of Interpretation and Certificate of Transliteration. She is a full-time freelance staff interpreter who has interpreted for a variety of interpreting settings. These include, but not limited to: Mayor Lori Lightfoot and other elected officials, fortune 500 businesses, mental health, medical, legal, court, elementary schools, Colleges/Universities, cruises, theatrical, festivals, church and community events. She often interprets interactively between her three languages, where she is the only interpreter present and interprets into/from all three languages, either consecutively or simultaneously. Melva is the founder, and past President, of the Illinois Chapter of Mano a Mano. Although in the field for many years, Melva believes that there is always room for growth and welcomes opportunities to continue to enhance her skills. She has mentored several Interpreter Training Students and is currently in school to receive her Master Mentor Certificate.

Rorri Burton is a Black, queer, community-raised interpreter who hails from Chicago, where she began learning American Sign Language at an early age.  After graduating college with her degree in Deaf Education, she taught in school districts around the country for ten years, before beginning what she assumed would be a temporary foray into a career as a full time ASL Interpreter.  Twelve years and five cities later, and Rorri has worked as an interpreter in a variety of settings, including Video Relay Service, vacation cruises, Hollywood sets, operating rooms, theme parks and theaters, among others.  Her current pursuit involves coordinating a group of Black, Indigenous, Asian and Latinx interpreters who are providing ASL access for virtual and in-person assignments, with a focus on cultural connectedness. 

Videos

Accessible Services Providers Series: BIPOC Providers, part 1: ASL Interpreters