Client Spotlight: Jonathan Webb of Iowa State University

When Jonathan Webb helped his mother study for an American Sign Language class as a child, he had no idea he’d found his life’s work. 

Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

By trade I am an interpreter of American Sign Language and English as well as an educator. I first began working professionally in 1993, and then full time in 1994. I have ever only lived in the United States, but have spent some time in the Midwest, West Coast, Rocky Mountain area, Hawaiin Islands, and am now back in the Midwest. My wife, Stephanie, is an interpreter and educator by trade as well, and we have three children, ages 10, 7, and 2.

 

Tell us about your position at Iowa State, and your department.

I just recently began working at Iowa State University in August of this year. I have a newly created position at the University, which is 60% in World Languages and Cultures and 40% in Disability Resource Services. For World Languages and Cultures, I am establishing and building an American Sign Language program that has the potential of growing into a couple of other programs- one for ASL Educators and another for ASL/English Interpreters. My research interest there is in models of 2nd language acquisition, as well as cross-cultural interpretation. For the Disability Resource Services side, I serve as a consultant to case managers who are working one on one with deaf students in order to provide accommodations such as interpreters, captioning of videos, note taking, etc. I also provide non-instructional interpretation for University events, or if a student needs to visit with a tutor or academic advisor.

 

How do you use Setmore?

I am using Setmore to assist with the scheduling of appointments with deaf students who need interpreting services outside of the classroom. Early on I knew that I needed a solution that allowed for them to feel empowered to go in and make an appointment on their own to receive services. The students have all been given the link to the Setmore calendar that was built, and now they can see when I am free, when I am available, and book an appointment for interpreting services without a lot of back and forth over the negotiation of times.

 

What brought you into the academic study of American Sign Language?

I just happened to fall into the study of ASL. My mother went back to school when I was 10 to advance her knowledge and ASL was one of the first classes she took. She would come home in the evenings and share with me what she had learned, and I became her study partner. We also had some close family friends who ended up taking courses along with her, and they became interpreters. So from a young age I was surrounded by interpreters and deaf community members, and American Sign Language. I am very fortunate that I learned at such an early age.

 

What unique challenges do deaf and hard of hearing students and faculty face in the academic world? In the world at large?

The academic world, and the world at large can be overwhelming for anyone. But as a deaf person, it can be extremely overwhelming because of the linguistic barriers. If someone from Egypt who only spoke Arabic moved to Mexico there would be many challenges. However, that individual could learn the language with some level of fluidity. A deaf individual however will rarely learn the language of their parents with great fluency because they are never inundated with the language. At the movies, at the park, while shopping, while in the car, they are surrounded by silence. So developing academic language in the language of the majority can be a struggle. Secondly, finding qualified service providers can be a challenge. There is a shortage of qualified interpreters around the world, and as such it is difficult to get through your university lectures if the interpreter providing interpretation can only give you 75% equivalent messages.

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