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VII. Robert E. Johnson, Ph.D.

Robert E. Johnson, Ph.D., Professor, Department of ASL, Linguistics, and Interpretation, Gallaudet University, described issues surrounding Miranda warnings for individuals who are deaf. This provided a model for issues in communication across cultures and languages. He outlined and provided examples illustrating three issues: comprehension, capacity, and voluntarism. He provided information about both literacy level and language use differences among differing groups of deaf individuals. Additionally, he described problems with the varying quality, experience and knowledge of interpreters in these critical settings. He noted that a standardized sign language hasn't worked to equalize the information provided to the deaf individuals noting that the variation in the experience of the deaf individual and limited exposure to some of the concepts exacerbates these problems. Additionally, words like "right" or "silent" have contextual meanings, are abstract, and when signed by different interpreters, result in completely different meanings. Regardless of educational level, many deaf persons are not exposed to mainstream culture through mass media based on sound. Media exposure is the source for the general public for its information about courts, legal processes, and the Miranda warning itself. It is also the way that many people are introduced to concepts related to research and clinical trials. He also noted another concern about determining that the individual has truly understood the consent process, stating that deaf people tend to comply with authority figures (uniforms, lab coats), so they may sign a consent form even if they don't understand it.


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