This study focuses on African American Sign Language video interpreters (VIs) working in the video relay service (VRS) setting in the United States. No study has been carried out to date that explores the experiences African Americans have when interpreting in VRS settings, where there is little or no autonomy due to policies governing the VRS companies by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC). Coupled with the rules and regulations from VRS companies and the FCC, African American interpreters also experience racism and racial microaggressions from VRS users and from their colleagues. This study was carried out using qualitative methods. Three African American female VIs were interviewed about their experiences working in the VRS setting. Their stories show that racism and racial microaggressions are a part of their working landscape. Their narratives also disclosed that there is a lack of diversity in the workplace and in the interpreting profession as a whole. The African American VIs interviewed reported that their interpreting programs failed to discuss issues of multiculturalism in the field, and their access to mentors from similar cultural backgrounds was limited. These participants suggested that courses in cultural awareness be offered in interpreter education programs and to their colleagues at work. Likewise, they believed African Americans could benefit from training that helps them cope with the systems of racism and racial microaggressions they face in the workplace.

Exit Requirement


Date of Award

Spring 4-12-2017

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Interpreting Studies

Committee Chair

Elisa Maroney

Committee Member

Amanda R. Smith

Committee Member

Erica West Oyedele


Racial mircroaggressions, Racism, Video relay service setting, African American interpreters, Burnout, Video interpreters, Qualitative research



Type (DCMI Terms)


Subject Categories

Education | Other Languages, Societies, and Cultures

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