In the words of... Bonnie Heath

Photo of Bonnie HeathIn the words of… Bonnie Heath, the Executive Director of the E-Quality Communication Centre of Excellence (ECCOE) located in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Bonnie is also the President of Critical Link International (CLI) – an organization dedicated to increasing the professionalization of community interpreters.


As ECCOE celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, can you tell us what the purpose of this organization is?

Our primary purpose is to provide the highest calibre of interpreting services and intervenor services for Deaf and Deaf-Blind persons.  We work in medical, legal, public service, recreation, employment and numerous other settings where communication takes place.  In 1982, when the organization was established, it was called the Independent Interpreter Referral Service (IIRS).  IIRS was created to provide sign language interpretation services to Deaf and non-Deaf Manitobans.  In the mid 1990’s, the Deaf-Blind Community asked IIRS to offer the same communication services for them.  This resulted in the establishment of the Resource Centre for Manitobans who are Deaf-Blind (RCMDB) under the E-Quality Communication Centre of Excellence (ECCOE).  The name of IIRS being changed to ECCOE occurred to acknowledge the inclusion of Deaf-Blind persons.


How is ECCOE funded?

ECCOE is a not-for-profit organization that receives its revenue from invoiced fee for service, service purchase agreements with both municipal and provincial governments as well as donations.  In 2011, ECCOE’s revenue exceeded one million dollars.


What makes you proud of ECCOE?

ECCOE is very proud of our strong working relationship with the communities we serve.  We work with Deaf and Deaf-Blind persons of all ages and cultural backgrounds including consumers from the Aboriginal/First Nations communities.  We are especially proud to see the difference professional Intervenors have made in the lives of members of the Deaf-Blind Community.  Intervenors have assisted in enhancing the feelings of being a full and capable member of society where once there was isolation.  Our longstanding commitment to the Deaf Community in all aspects of life is a source of great pride.  We have always been involved in the training of Interpreters both in American Sign Language (ASL)/English and spoken language interpreters.  ECCOE staff and contractors have volunteered on numerous boards representing interpreting associations locally, provincially, nationally and internationally.


What are the primary services of ECCOE?

Our primary service is the provision of American Sign Language (ASL)/English Interpreters and Intervenors (for the Deaf-Blind Community) as well as Computerized Note Takers for Deaf-Blind consumers who do not use sign language.  In addition to these services we provide practicum placements for ASL/English Interpreter students from across Canada.  ECCOE also assists in training Sign Language Interpreters.  One of our staff facilitates a training program for Spoken Language Interpreters.


Does ECCOE serve as a role model throughout the country?

ECCOE ensures community involvement by having a minimum of 51% Deaf representation on its’ Board of Directors.  The Deaf-Blind program (the Resource Centre for Manitobans who are Deaf-Blind RCMDB) is overseen by a steering committee with numerous Deaf-Blind members serving on its Board.  ECCOE endeavors to meet all requests regardless of sector and/or funding available.

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