Texas’ first Deaf, LGBTQ+, female-owned ASL interpreting agency opens in Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A new American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter agency launched today in Austin, making history as the state’s first agency for deaf and LGBTQ+ women.

the agency Rooted links, grew out of discussions between the founders, Marissa D’Rose, China D’Rose, Carly Gruetzner and Jillian Gruetzner, during virtual workshops. Soon after, the four met in person, and last year decided to start a company together.

The four were interviewed by KXAN through an interpreter.

“There are a lot of agencies, not just in Austin, but specifically for Austin, that don’t meet our expectations as deaf consumers,” Marissa said. “We share many of the same frustrations and a passion to change the interpreting industry.”

“We are putting ourselves in a position to push for change. If we continued as freelance interpreters, we wouldn’t have the same kind of power to push for change,” Carly added. “We live in the world as deaf people, we can’t just get out and go back to a hearing family. That’s not an option for us, and that’s a big difference between us and hearing interpreters.”

According to the founders, most translation agencies in the US are run by hearing people, specifically heterosexual white men.

“Often the deaf person is alone, if you will, in the room, they’re surrounded by hearing people, including the hearing interpreter, and so they often don’t feel fully supported,” Jillian said.

The founders shared an anecdote about a deaf acquaintance going to a doctor for gender confirmation care. The interpreter assigned by the agency is unfamiliar with the subject, creating a barrier to the deaf person receiving care.

“There is a dire need for more diversity. Studies show that the majority of interpreters are white, hearing women,” Jillian said. “Our community is very diverse, that means translators have to look like us, they have to reflect that diversity.”

“I would be hard-pressed to name one person who owns an interpreting agency that I see in the deaf community,” Chyna said. “Often we don’t really see that. We want to have our faces in the community, not just sit behind a desk and hide behind the four walls of an agency.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *