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About Project CLIMB

Project CLIMB was a $2M, five year grant. This grant was awarded by the U.S. Department of Education, Rehabilitation Services Administration to the University of Northern Colorado's Department of American Sign Language & Interpreting Studies under the leadership of Dr. Leilani Johnson. UNC also contributed more than $185,000 to this project. The funding was used between January 2017 - December 2021.

Supporting Diversity in Legal Interpreting

Project CLIMB would not have been possible without dedicated individuals and organizations who gave of their resources to support practitioners from underrepresented communities to provide quality interpreting services to members of the Deaf Community who engage with the U.S. legal system.

Project CLIMB supported diversity in legal interpreting by focusing on the delivery of educational opportunities within communities of learning for interpreters from minority groups. A critical mass of diverse interpreters who shared similar minority backgrounds was created during the five year timeline and various activities provided by Project CLIMB.

Project CLIMB's Timeline & Activities

Project CLIMB was projected to prepare over 150 interpreters of color and/or from heritage signing backgrounds for work in the legal setting over the life of this grant. In addition to direct training opportunities, this website served as an additional resource through the tools, media resources, and webinars that were developed or compiled by Project CLIMB and shared with the public.

In the video, Amy Williamson, the Co-Director of Administration for Project CLIMB, explained the five year timeline for Project CLIMB and the various goals the grant set out to accomplish.
This video was recorded in 2017 at the beginning of the grant cycle. The video is in ASL with no English/written captions.

ASL (no English Captions)

Year 1: January - December 2017


  1. Development of legal interpreting modules and supervisor/mentor training program

  2. Assemble representatives from the legal system & interpreter organizations to investigate collaborative approaches to credentialing for interpreters of color and heritage signers


Project CLIMB identified and collaborated with core consultants. These consultants provided expertise in legal systems, instructional design, delivery, and program evaluation. They were also predominantly individuals from minority backgrounds which helped to ensure that pedagogical practices and project delivery would occur in ways that took into consideration skill development as well as the psychosocial needs of participants taking part in Project CLIMB activities.

Year 2: January - December 2018


  1. Train 25 legal interpreting supervisor/mentors

  2. Assemble representatives from the legal system & interpreter organizations to discuss barriers & career paths for interpreters of color and heritage signers


Project CLIMB trained 25 legal interpreting supervisors/mentors. These individuals served as facilitators during 2018.

Project CLIMB engaged with stakeholder groups and organizations consisting primarily of individuals of the target population (interpreters of color and/or interpreters from heritage signing backgrounds) and those who work with consumers who stand to benefit the most by having access to interpreters of minority backgrounds working in the legal system to gain their support.

Project CLIMB worked collaboratively with and supported the efforts of organizations such as the National Center for State Courts and state level judicial branch administrators. The shared goal was to ensure language access within the legal system.

Year 3 & 4: January 2019 - December 2020


  1. Recruit working interpreters who possess a minimum of three years of general practice interpreting experience and a bachelor's degree in ASL-English interpreting (or years of education/credit hours/formative life experience not totaling a formal degree)

    NOTE: Project CLIMB was particularly interested in outreach to working interpreters of color and interpreters from heritage signing backgrounds (Deaf and Coda interpreters) to join communities of learning.

  2. Offer and implement a 9-month, online Legal Interpreter Training program through communities of learning


Project CLIMB hosted a three day training in 2019. Shifting Perspectives: Navigating the Legal System through Deaf Eyes was a panel based discussion for interpreters working in the legal setting. 

Large group session at the Shifting Perspectives conference

Through face-to-face and online resources, Project CLIMB created a cohort of communities of learning (COL) which prepared interpreters from diverse background for work in the legal specialization.

The first Legal Interpreter Training cohort ran from August 2019 to May 2020. The second cohort ran from August 2020 to May 2021. 

Participants at the Shifting Perspectives conference

Year 5: January - December 2021


  1. Supervise the induction process of legal interpreters from minority backgrounds

  2. Synthesize, evaluate, and distribute the work of the project


Project CLIMB offered a rich, immersive online legal interpreting induction experience to participants who successfully completed its 9-month legal training, including:

    1. A 4-month, online Mentor Training that prepared participants to bring all they've learned through Project CLIMB back to their local and professional communities

    2. Legal and general interpreting preparation sessions within a community of learning, facilitated by Subject Matter Experts

    3. Mock legal interpreting opportunities in a variety of settings, including legal hearings, jury duty, law enforcement, and attorney-client meetings

    4. Post-interpreting reflection sessions within a community of learning, facilitated by Subject Matter Experts

Grant Recognition

The contents of the Project CLIMB website was developed under a grant (#H160D160001) from the Department of Education. The contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the Department of Education. Do not assume endorsement by the Federal government.

As of December 31, 2021, this grant project is no longer active or soliciting applications.
This website will remain available as a resource.

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