University of Calgary

Agents of Transformation

Submitted by alumni on Sat, 04/02/2016 - 21:01.

Agents of Transformation

Meet six extraordinary individuals who were not only awakened by their experiences at university — but emerged transformed, ready to disrupt, energize and change their communities and the world.
Photographs by James Mason


Janice Manchul
Signing at School

by Erin Carpenter

Janice Manchul has a firm handshake and a steady eye. Her hands and eyes are a means of social interaction, but, for years now, they’ve been much more — they’re how she communicates with her clients, many of whom are hearing-impaired.

Manchul has arrived at a sociology class on campus to provide sign-language interpreting for Chris Daeninck, a third-year student. After introducing herself to the professor, Manchul stands at the front of the small auditorium within Daeninck’s line of sight.

While the professor discusses how new media has transformed culture, Manchul translates the lecture for Daeninck using American Sign Language. Her hands dip, her fingers fly; her eyes lock on Daeninck’s. Her expressions are emphatic; she shifts from foot to foot. Daeninck watches her intently behind his laptop computer. Another interpreter takes notes to ensure Manchul captures the content and context of the lecture. It’s an intense process, loaded with nuanced information.

“In our profession, we are doing what I call processing,” Manchul explains.

“Processing means that I have to be attending to the message, as well as attending to the environment. I have to say, ‘Here is the message, here is the instruction, here is the lecture, here is a moment of learning. How do I seamlessly try to mediate so that the students have the opportunity to interpret on their own terms what is being led by instruction, just like everyone else in the classroom?’”

Manchul began her interpreting career 23 years ago, due to her unusual background.

“My mother and father are deaf, my mother is deaf-blind, so I grew up in a household of deafness where my first language was visual language,” she says.

Friends encouraged Manchul, as a hearing person, to become a sign language interpreter — something she initially resisted.

“My attitude originally was, ‘I don’t want to become an interpreter; deaf people can get an education without an interpreter — my mom and dad get along fine. Neighbours talk to them, my mom knows how to write, my dad knows how to write, they’re both educated; why would I want to be an interpreter?’” she says.

Manchul’s friends persisted until she finally enrolled in an interpreter-training program in Edmonton. There, a class on deaf culture, led by a deaf instructor, transformed her.

“I understood more about myself and that’s what tweaked me to go, ‘You know, I have something to offer,’ because interpreters are like a third culture,” she says. “They’re not deaf, they’re not hearing, but they understand how to navigate between the two worlds. Well, who better to do that [than someone] who has the innate ability, because I was born into those two worlds to navigate, so why not use my relationships toward the role or to a professional practice?”

Manchul, along with two other people, owns Freelance Interpreters Consolidated, subcontracting to 40 other sign language interpreters, most of whom are Alberta-based. Most of their clients are post-secondary institutions that have deaf students such as Daeninck.

“It’s been great having interpretive services on site,” Daeninck says, using sign language interpreted by Manchul. “I can understand what the professor is talking about in my native language, in my own language, and then, in turn, the professor understands me, even though I’m using a different language than they are.”

Daeninck says the availability of interpretive services has transformed his university experience beyond the classroom.

“I feel like I am a citizen of the U of C campus, absolutely,” he says. “I feel really comfortable.”

Manchul herself was a UCalgary student, reaching her third year of Community Rehabilitation and Disability Studies before commitments in her personal and professional life took over. She says her work has left its mark on her, too.

“It actually has changed me,” she says. “Meeting people, understanding worldviews not only from my perspective, but understanding worldview in terms of how I impact and what [I impact]. That, for me, encourages more mindfulness, and that makes me a better person — not only in my work, but also in relationships I have outside.”