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Roxanne Whiting | Canada | Adopting & Leveraging Technology

Dedicated Entrepreneur | Co-Owner | ASL-ENG Interpreter | Proud CODA

I was born and raised in Ottawa by Deaf parents. My first languages were American Sign Language (ASL) and English. Being raised in two distinct cultures, I understands the communication struggles both groups have with each other. Manoeuvring through this bi-cultural world strengthened my resolve to bridge this communication gap. This is the reason I am a passionate advocate for creating a world where communication barriers are eliminated, and where social diversity and inclusion are valued. I believe that by adopting and leveraging technology, communication obstacles can be removed which will create meaningful employment and career opportunities for Deaf people and Interpreters. I began interpreting at a young age for interactions with people who did not learn or know sign language including my extended family, the bank, doctorsʼ offices, and, at times, with my parentsʼ employers. These experiences taught me how to make sense of the world and work towards building a better communication mechanism. After high school, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. I enrolled in an cosmetology program and for a brief period, worked in cosmetic sales and landed a few opportunities working as a make-up artist for photoshoots and movies. I liked what I was doing but I didn't LOVE it so thought about what skills I had and where I could apply them in a career. By this time, I was now working in retail, selling shoes and sportswear. One of my former teachers, Mrs. Clarke came into the store one day and asked me why I was selling shoes!? She couldn't understand why I was there and not working as a Sign Language Interpreter given it was my f irst language. She had a point. I gave it some thought, spoke to my mother and she was thrilled that I wanted to pursue interpreting. She had wanted me to become an interpreter because she knew it was a viable career.

She worked as a public servant for the Canadian Federal Government and used interpreters for her meetings and professional development training. I immediately began researching where I could study to become a professional interpreter. Best decision ever! I moved to Edmonton, Alberta and graduated from the ASL-ENG Interpreting Program in 1998 and moved back to Ottawa in 1999. I started working for an Interpreting Company in the year 2000 called Sign Language Interpreting Associates Ottawa (SLIAO).

SLIAO rebranded in 2023 to Asign. In 2007, I became a shareholder of Asign. Today Asign is an innovative, women-owned and led company that leverages technology to provide interpreting and translation services. We have close to 200 employees, 160 interpreters and translators working with us across Canada. We work with organizations to help identify communication tools and solutions that create accessible environments for their employees and customers. Employees, customers, and users of our services become part of a community of like-minded individuals that value communication access and inclusion for Deaf Canadians.

What were the biggest inittal hurdles and how did you overcome them?

I was raised by Deaf parents and lived in two worlds: deaf and hearing. A marginalized linguistic minority surrounded me with a worldview and values opposite to the world experienced by the majority of people who can hear. Navigating the world was very challenging for me when I was a growing up. It took many years of living in a vulnerable state, trying to understand the world whilst defending the rights of communication access for my parents and their peers. Despite many hardships, living in both worlds has been a gift because I now identify with both groups. I developed the ability to connect with people from all walks of lif e and build meaningful connections that gave me the courage to speak out, ask questions and address difficult situations with grace. I am goal-driven, who thinks big and is not afraid to take risks and make tough decisions - always with the objective to moving things forward for my business and my community. I am compassionate and care for my team and the Deaf community. My objective is even the playing f ield for Deaf people to access information and services, employment, education and entrepreneurship by leveraging technology using Asign's interpreting and translation services.

What books are you currently reading?

I love listening to Gary Vaynerchukʼs podcasts. I read his book, “Crushing It” several years ago and I have just ordered two of his others books, “Crush It!: Why NOW is the Time to Cash In on Your Passion” and “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook”. I am excited to start reading them when they are delivered. The tough decision will be which one to read first!

What advise would you give to an upcoming youth or talnets locally and internationally?

Follow your passion, whatever it is! My passion is making the world accessible to Deaf people; so they can use their native and primary sign language everywhere and anywhere without being confronted with obstacles and barriers that limit their opportunities in all aspects of their lives. Working with Asign gives me the platform to make this happen. When you're passionate about your career or education, you're more likely to be dedicated and willing to put in the effort to invest in developing your skills and knowledge and when you enjoy your work, it's easier to strike a balance between your professional and personal life, as you're less likely to view work as a burden. Passion fuels motivation and determination and can lead to creative thinking and motivation to f ind solutions and help you stay resilient in the face of challenges and setbacks. When you love what you do, you're more likely to persevere through difficult times and will give you a greater sense of fulfillment and happiness in your life.

Social Media Handles:

Instagram (professional): @asigninc

Instagram (personal): @whitingroxanne

Facebook: @asigninc

Youtube: @asign_inc


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