in good hands with interpreter
Propp interprets speeches given during last falls Convocation.
By Matt Kelly
Propp was trained as a lawyer but instead chose to work with his
hands interpreting for the deaf.
41, coordinates services for the deaf and hard-of-hearing at the
Universitys Learning Needs and Evaluation Center, which
serves students with disabilities, assists deaf students in the
classroom and interprets University events for the deaf and hard-of-hearing.
hearing son of deaf parents, Propp was raised in a multilingual
household, learning English and American Sign Language with two
hearing sisters and a deaf brother.
seemed perfectly normal to me to combine spoken words and
sign language in conversations, he said.
opened doors for him. As a teen working in a movie theater tearing
tickets, he made $2.50 an hour. Then he found out his sisters
were making $8 to $12 an hour as sign language interpreters.
week later, I was signing up for workshops, he said. He
was a certified sign language interpreter by age 16.
learned the importance of nuance when he translated meetings for
his father, a professor of deaf education at the University of
a university meeting, or an English class, a particular jargon
is important because this is whats expected in discussions
and feedback on their exams and papers, he said, showing
with a quick flurry of his hands the subtle changes differentiating
facilitate from manage or operate.
can combine signs to get to different things, but you rely on
finger spelling a lot, he said. Finger spelling follows
English and his hands flash out a series of letters to spell out
who is also licensed to practice law in North Carolina, used his
signing talents to pay his way through the University of North
Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he earned political science and
law degrees. Even while he practiced law, specializing in disability
cases, he continued working as an interpreter.
his wife, Kathryn Jarvis, the associate director of academic support
for the Athletic Department,
got a job at U.Va. in 1993, Propp moved to Charlottesville. He
decided not to take the Virginia bar exam and worked at Michie
Law Publishing as an editor, compiling state codes, while moonlighting
as an interpreter at the
working for Michie for more than four years, Propp left to work
at the University part time as an interpreter, which grew into
a full-time job three years ago. He uses his legal training to
help guide his office through the Americans with Disabilities
accommodate deaf and hard-of-hearing students, Propp has an arsenal
of techniques and devices. Some students require something as
simple as priority seating, putting them in the front row to be
able to read the instructors lips. Others need more extensive
services, ranging from special hearing amplifiers to on-screen,
word-for-word transcription for the students laptop. Under
the ADA, the University must provide reasonable accommodations
for students with disabilities. Cost is not a factor, he said.
role includes providing services to deaf and hard-of-hearing faculty
and staff, but classroom interpretation for students demands particular
If I had three or four students full-time, I would have
a difficult time, not only because of
the physical demands on me, but also because of the lack of qualified
interpreters in the area, Propp said, meaning he would have
additional interpreters in from Washington or Richmond.
science classes, there is more finger spelling and word-for-word
signing, while in others he has exciting and emotional things
to present that involve conceptual and translating challenges.
Julian Bond is talking about being in the middle of a civil rights
march in Washington, the challenge is not to get so caught up
in what he is saying and remain on task, he said.
said Propps presence has not intruded on his classes at
Propp has to work not to succumb to the emotion of the moment,
such as the anniversary service marking the Sept. 11 attacks.
the words fiery inferno are used in that context,
you cant help but be visually graphic, he said, his
hands fluttering out the shapes of the World Trade Center towers,
indicating the explosion of the plane collision and the flames
and smoke rising.
hardest moment was at the end, when Propp was not signing, and
John DEarth was playing America the Beautiful
thought I was going to cry because I didnt have the context
of signing and thought,Ive got to keep this together,
is definitely more fun than practicing law, Propp said.
has its ups and downs, he said. Some cold, rainy days
Im schlepping around Grounds from class to class, wondering
what I am doing.
then on beautiful spring and fall days, when I am walking to Julian
Bonds class or [Peter C.] Brunjess psychobiology class,
I think Im going to learn something pretty cool today.