An Interview with Chris Wagner, NAD President
Brandon: Hi, I’m Brandon Arthur with StreetLeverage here in New Orleans at the 2015 RID National Conference. I’m thrilled to be here with Chris Wagner, president of NAD. Welcome, Chris.
Chris: Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Brandon: It’s exciting to have NAD’s representation here at RID’s 2015 national conference. Why is it important for you to attend this conference and engage with RID at this crucial time?
Chris: I think it’s important that NAD be here to represent a critical group of stakeholders. The work of interpreters is on behalf of the Deaf community, so it’s imperative that we are on the same page in regards to setting standards for quality of skills, expectations, and the like. NAD has a huge voice in the process and the evolution of the interpreting profession.
Brandon: RID made a big announcement to suspend its performance tests. What was NAD’s involvement in that process?
Chris: Firstly, it’s important to know that this was RID’s decision. NAD did become concerned when we learned the news, but at the same time, NAD and RID have had a long relationship in terms of reaching agreements on testing, certifications, education, etc. What’s important is that NAD has a say in the process, because NAD and RID collectively own the NIC test. Many people are not aware of the fact that we own that test together, so we must have a say in that process. The news of the moratorium came as a shock, but NAD and RID have been working on establishing a business agreement to clearly define our respective roles. This news gives us the opportunity to make a good business decision. We can look at their risk assessment, make recommendations, and come to an agreement. If we can’t come to an agreement, NAD has to make some decisions. We could decide that NAD does not want to be party to this business agreement, or we could make modifications in order to strengthen the business agreement. In my view, the aim of the moratorium is to strengthen RID and NAD as organizations moving forward.
Brandon: In thinking about how NAD represents the Deaf community as a whole, what is your sense of how the moratorium will impact the Deaf community?
Chris: My view is that it’s not about the impact on the Deaf community, per se. We cannot allow for a compromise on quality. We maintain our expectation of high quality standards for all interpreters. Without the moratorium, we continue to allow things to fall through the cracks, and there is no accountability in terms of quality. NAD’s position is that the Deaf community does not want to lower the standards of quality for interpreters and services. We take this seriously. I think it’s not about the impact on the Deaf community. Rather, if we take responsibility for doing an analysis and make a recommendation, we will raise the standards to benefit all Deaf people and interpreters as well.
Brandon: In reflecting on this fairly serious decision, what do you hope for as an outcome of this situation?
Chris: Of course we all want a strong RID. We want a strong organization. We want to build a strong foundation for all current and future interpreters and for the Deaf community as well. Historically, some people have viewed RID as a membership-based organization, but it’s still a business. We have a responsibility to provide certifications to those who deserve it, who meet the expectations. So I predict that the risk assessment will ultimately be a good thing. It probably took a lot of people by surprise, but it’s a good thing, because it gives everyone an opportunity to examine the inner workings of the organization. It allows transparency for everyone. We can identify areas that need improvement, what the strengths are, etc., and ultimately make it better. In the long run, I believe that RID can become a stronger organization in partnership with organizations like NAD.
Brandon: You have a big job in your daily life, and you’ve led NAD for many years. RID is now looking for a new Executive Director and we have a new board of directors on deck. Do you have any advice for the organization as it undergoes these transitions?
Chris: That’s a good question. I think that the most important thing you have to take into consideration, especially in times of transition, is to select a strong leader, someone who can guide the organization through these major changes. That takes a strong leader. Maintain open communication with the community. Stay transparent. The more communication you have with the community, the more confidence people have in the organization. That’s my advice for the new board and whomever it appoints as the new Executive Director.
Brandon: Thank you so much for allowing us the opportunity to sit down with you. We appreciate your sharing NAD’s perspective on this important decision. We’re so happy you’re involved, and we look forward to more of your engagement to ensure that we’re doing the right thing for both the interpreting and Deaf communities. Thank you.
Chris: Likewise. Thank you.
More RID Coverage here.