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Command hires full-time American Sign Language interpreter to serve, empower total workforce

By Max Maxfield, PSNS & IMF Public Affairs | July 12, 2019

BREMERTON, Wash —

In its ongoing effort to promote an all-inclusive environment for a diverse workforce, Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility recently hired a full-time American Sign Language interpreter to help recruit, hire, professionally develop and retain deaf and hard of hearing employees.

Marlene Bell, an American Sign Language Interpreter with Code 900A, Administrative Support, facilitates communication for deaf and hard of hearing employees and can also help train supervisors on the best practices in communicating with these employees and ensuring they reach full potential.

Bell’s services can be booked for a variety of situations, including one-on-one mentoring sessions between supervisors and deaf team members, to translating for larger groups of employees as she did recently at the PSNS & IMF Change of Command Ceremony.

“I have been a certified professional ASL interpreter for 15 years now,” explained Bell, whose first language may be considered ASL, as she is a child of deaf parents and has been bridging the divide between the deaf and hearing worlds since before she was in elementary school. “In that time I have interpreted in a wide array of situations, from classrooms, medical appointments and social services and industrial work, to large group presentations, courtrooms and video relay services.”

Aaron Blake, a program manager with Code 900A, Injured Worker Program, said the team who selected Bell for the ASL translator position, knew she was the right person to help show the deaf community that the command values having a diverse workforce and is willing to accommodate them if they choose to join the PSNS & IMF team.

“I was the hiring manager that selected Marlene,” recalled Blake. “Marlene had been one of our contracted interpreters for about six years. Marlene had built a very strong relationship with our deaf employees. I like her drive and her desire for what she does.”

Blake said that Bell can translate for most events, but should there be an extended event or the need for ASL translators to cover simultaneous events, contract interpreters can be hired to fill any gaps in service to the deaf or hard of hearing community within the command.

“Marlene won’t be able to do it all herself,” he said. “We will develop her assignments as we go. We have to see how busy she will be just interpreting. I think that now that we have Marlene on board, we will see a rise in demand for her services.”

Bell said she feels it is her mission to ensure deaf and hard of hearing employees are afforded all the training and professional development opportunities that are available to hearing employees. She said she feels connected to the deaf community and feels they have shaped her outlook both personally and professionally. Bell hopes to bridge any gaps that may exist among all the hearing and deaf or hard of hearing members of the PSNS & IMF team.

“The Navy’s investment in facilitating clear communications among all levels of staff demonstrates their commitment to a healthy culture of teamwork, and I’m happy to be part of that effort. This work will take me all over the shipyard, so if you see me passing by, don’t hesitate to say hi or just wave. That’s hi in ASL, but you already knew that,” she said with a smile and a wink.