Sign language interpreter finds gratification in helping disable students succeed
Chuc Nguyen, The Oklahoma Daily
For more than 20 years, Alicia Martin has worked to help students get the most out of their education.
Martin is the head sign language interpreter and the associate director of OU’s Disability Resource Center. Each semester, she works with students to make sure they have equal access to information in their classes despite disabilities.
There are currently eight students on campus who have interpreters or real-time transcriptionists, said Suzette Dyer, director of Disability Resource Center.
Martin said the most gratifying thing about her job is being able to watch students succeed.
“The ultimate [reward] is to see students graduate and succeed in what they love,” Martin said.
Martin started studying sign language when she was 13 years old. She enrolled in a class out of curiosity, she said.
That curiosity manifested into something much more.
By her second semester of college, Martin already was interpreting for 20 students.
Interpreting turned into a career for Martin, who served as an independent contractor at OU for 15 years before she was hired as a full staff member eight years ago. Martin was promoted to her current position as associate director four years ago.
Martin currently works with three students on campus. Her days are spent either in the classroom or working to coordinate resources for other registered students.
The relationships she has with students are very professional, Martin said, but former students frequently reach out to her after graduation to update her on their accomplishments — which she finds very fulfilling.
Special education junior Amy Galoob said it is very easy to communicate and connect with interpreters like Martin. Galoob is one of the eight students registered with Disabilities Research Center as deaf or hearing impaired.
Galoob didn’t use an interpreter in high school, however, she said she decided to have one when she transitioned to college. She said she didn’t have the support she needed in high school, but working with the Disabilities Resource Center has given her that support.
“I wanted to show people what I can do,” Galoob said. “I can do whatever I want to.”
The resource center does not just offer interpreters to students; it also works to target specific teaching trends that are more challenging for students that are deaf or hard of hearing, Martin said.
For example, classes that regularly utilize movies and other types of media are more challenging for these students — who find it difficult to watch both the movie and the interpreter, she said.
Her goal is to get professors to include captions on films during classes so the students can “have full access” to the material, Martin said.
The resource center’s ultimate goal is to make sure all students receive the best education in their classes and obtain all of the information, Martin said.