Founder’s Mission to Enhance Experiences of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Communities.
Hardships bring out the best in the few extraordinary individuals who manage to use their struggles for greatness. Martin Luther King, Jr., perhaps explained it best: “The greatness of man cannot be seen in the hours of comfort and convenience, but rather in moments of conflict/adversity.”
Thus, is the story of P. Lanette Pinkard, CEO of My Hands Your Heart and Cruise Interpreter Academy. The two businesses were founded with a focus on enhancing the experiences of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing communities. She accomplishes this by teaching interpreters the importance of possessing strong client relation skills.
Pinkard’s journey began as a CODA, or a child who was raised by one or more Deaf parents or guardians. CODAs have a deep understanding of the Deaf Community and its challenges.
Her knowledge gained as a CODA, along with trials and tribulations experienced in her youth, lead her down a path as an ASL interpreter determined to make a difference for the billion Deaf people living in today’s world. The CEO aims to raise the bar of customer service among interpreters in order to garner the connection those who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing deserve.
“Everything I have done has been to solve a problem in the interpreting profession,” Pinkard explained. “I push others’ potential button big and help them step into their purpose, greatness can be achieved by making others great.”
A Childhood Journey with a Purpose
Pinkard spent much of her younger years with her grandparents, who were deafF. By the time she was seven or eight months old, Pinkard was already signing as she learned to communicate with her grandmother. When she tragically lost her mother, Pinkard was raised by her grandparents full-time. As a child, the adjustment was difficult at times.
“They didn’t hear the 4-year-old girl crying in the next room for her mother every night because they were deaf,” Pinkard recalled. “I didn’t understand all that until later.”
She persevered through her childhood in spite of intense bullying and the loss of loved ones, among many other obstacles. Despite all of it, she paid close attention to the needs of her Deaf grandparents. She learned firsthand how important it is to the Deaf to connect with people around them, including those interpreting on their behalf. Little did she know just how much this deep understanding would shape her future.
In 2007, Pinkard set out to make a difference and launched My Hands Your Heart, with a dedication to exceptional customer service and ethics by ASL interpreters for the customers they serve. The creation of the company set the foundation for change among interpreters.
Grounding Companies in Greatness
Through My Hands Your Heart, Pinkard has equipped her interpreters to do so much more than just communicate with the Deaf Community. She teaches them to be aware of their body language, including facial expressions, and to fight for equal access for their customers. She instructs them on the importance of knowing what the Deaf say matters and their job is about so much more than just speaking for them — it’s about connecting.
ASL interpreters also have the opportunity to become qualified for cruise interpreting assignments to ensure their clients have the time of their life on vacation. In addition to My Hands Your Heart, Pinkard also founded Cruise Interpreter Academy, a cruise ship industry-focused training that helps ASL Interpreters improve their customer communication and service skills.
Pinkard discovered during her time as an ASL interpreter herself that interpersonal skills are a missing link for many in the industry. She was told horror stories from various Deaf clients, such as how previous interpreters would miss early morning meetings and take selfies
instead of helping their customers. Pinkard knew there was a better way, and created the academy so interpreters could serve traveling Deaf customers professionally.
“Sign language interpreters are a beautiful asset, but if deaf people had their choice, they wouldn’t have a third party involved in everything they want to do. We have to be sensitive enough to be the customer service part,” she said. “A lot of interpreters can put their hands in the air to sign, but people want service with care and connection. Deaf people don’t want an interpreter who is professional, yet can be personal, love what they do and care that their communication is facilitated accurately.”
Grand Plans for the Future
With 40-plus years as an interpreter under her belt, Pinkard has no intentions of slowing down the progress she continues to pursue in the Deaf Community.
“I have done so much interpreting, I’m almost 60, and I have the honor of the Deaf Community wanting to use me as their interpreter,” Pinkard said. “I want the novice and experienced interpreters to do their very best so the Deaf Community can trust them and want to use them again and again and again.”
Pinkard has continued to encourage others as an entrepreneur, motivational speaker, and author of five inspirational books. She also created a sign language school for those who didn’t want to go to college to learn sign language but sought to know enough to communicate with the Deaf or Hard of Hearing.
The CEO is regularly adding new talent to her growing team of interpreters, including the most recent addition, Lisa Lockley, who is coming on as a partner. Lisa has been instrumental in ensuring the standard for the company is excellence.
It’s all a part of guaranteeing Pinkard continues to push all those around her to be better. She wants other interpreters to know they, too, can strive for greatness both for themselves and those they serve.
“I want to continue pulling that gift out of others and pushing them forward,” Pinkard concluded.
About P. Lanette Pinkard
P. Lanette Pinkard is the founder and CEO of My Hands Your Heart LLC and Cruise Interpreter Academy, an entrepreneurial organization that serves organizations and companies with certified American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters for Deaf and Hard of Hearing customers and guests. She has written five lifestyle inspiration books and has interpreted on over 100 cruises. For more information visit https://myhandsyourheart.com/
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