In all societies, there exists a rank system that provides some with advantages and privileges, and others with disadvantages which result in oppression. In the United States, those who are considered disabled, like the Deaf community, are systematically marginalized and are considered Targets, whereas those who are not considered disabled receive advantages and are thus Agents (Hays, 2001, 2008; Nieto et al., 2010). Hearing ASL-English interpreters inherently hold advantages and are Agents based on their ability to hear (Baker-Shenk, 1991; Nieto et al., 2010). ASL-English interpreters are in a unique position to recognize the oppression of the Deaf community and the social imbalances the Deaf community may face, and these interpreters are afforded the opportunity to work with the Deaf community toward social justice and equity as allies (Witter-Merithew, 1999). Nieto et al. (2010) developed an Agent Skills Model to provide a means to describe the skill sets that those who are advantaged can develop in order to work with Target group members toward equity and move from Agent-centric skills to Agent-relative skill sets, potentially resulting in Allyship. Edwards (2006) discusses the idea that there are multiple types of allyship based on the privileged person’s motivations. This study intends to assess the current climate of ASL-English interpreter Agent skill sets based on Nieto et al.’s (2010) model and determine ASL-English interpreter ally identification and their definition of allyship behaviors and beliefs. Using Likert scale and open-ended question data, the study assessed 270 responses, and data indicated that ASL-English interpreters strongly identify with Agent-relative skill sets, yet do not always cite the behaviors and beliefs associated with those skill sets when defining their own allyship. Additionally, it was determined that each type of allyship defined by Edwards (2006) was supported among collected responses. The results from this study provide a foundation for further research into types of allyship ASL-English interpreters identify, expanded understanding of the Agent skill sets ASL-English interpreters demonstrate, and additional discussion around how ASL-English interpreters can use their privilege to work toward anti-oppressive consciousness and equity with the Deaf community.

Exit Requirement


Date of Award

Spring 4-26-2016

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Interpreting Studies

Committee Chair

Amanda R. Smith

Committee Member

Marie LeJeune

Committee Member

Dave J. Coyne


allyship, sign language interpreter, Agent, Target, social justice, skill sets



Type (DCMI Terms)


Subject Categories

Education | Other Languages, Societies, and Cultures

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