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You Don't Know What You Don't Know

By Jeiri Flores
Jeiri Flores and Jensen Caraballo PresentingIn partnership with Ibero-American Action League, URMC Interpreter Services, and self-advocates Jeiri Flores and Jensen Caraballo, SCDD's Health Disparities program recently developed and delivered trainings to Spanish language medical interpreters to improve healthcare experiences for patients with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. Jeiri Flores reflects on her experience in the following post; each training consisted of two 2-hour sessions, which she refers to as “rounds.” This project was funded by the WITH Foundation.

Being tasked to teach a group of Spanish interpreters how to be advocates for their patients while simultaneously introducing them to disability culture and history, while simultaneously unpacking Latinx culture and communication styles, is no small feat. For months we talked about the problems that plague and hinder interpreters. We dissected their roles, their attitudes/unconscious bias, and all the things we thought we knew about them. Then we scrutinized what we thought we would say, how we would say it, and what we had to include into each presentation; but nothing could've prepared us for what we experienced during the training.

Have you ever watched a boxer train for a titled match? For months they perfect their moves, they learn their opponent’s moves; they imagine their opponent responses and create a fight plan. We were the undefeated champs defending our title and we stepped in the ring (training room) buzzing full of energy and passion.

During the first round we stumbled a bit, but we found the interpreters were hungry for the information that we were sharing. They were curious, they had questions, and together we were exploring a world they rarely discussed freely. For two hours we shared stories with one another and deliberated about the issues people with disabilities face in the medical realm.

Round 2 was an easier round as we now knew what to expect. The interpreters were receptive and eager to expand their knowledge and understanding, and as the round came to a close we realized that we had created something that was not only unique but needed.

Round 3 was the hardest, in my opinion, as we introduced a new batch of interpreters to our curriculum and had to work harder than before to engage them. It was not easy, but the longer we talked about disability issues and the more stories we shared, things became clearer for them.

In round 4, our training had come to a close and I can confidently say that we as trainers and trainees grew together in this process and established relationships that have the potential to grow and improve the lives of many.

While the imaginary judges in our heads decided who the winner was, all of us in the room realized that there is still so much we don’t know about each other’s expertise. As a self-advocate in the room, I realized that interpreters deserve more credit than I was giving them. I digested some heavy truths and left with a silent promise to myself to do more as an advocate for the people in my city.


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