Impacting an Industry: Associate Feature

By hissign|December 8, 2021|Blogs|0 comments

Mrs. Elaine Ziehl—a fixture of the Northern Virginia Deaf community—retired on September 30th, 2021. For over 20 years,  Elaine worked at the Virginia Department for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (VDDHH), where she was a Virginia Quality Assurance Screening (VQAS) Coordinator. To commemorate her crucial role in the DMV’s interpreting community, this ‘Impacting an Industry’ piece will reflect on Elaine’s legacy.

Influence on the Community

As a VQAS coordinator, Elaine was an affable presence who welcomed everyone to VDDHH. Her responsibilities included coordinating the written and performance assessments for interpreter candidates. She also worked with the performance assessment administrators. These tasks took dedication and attention to detail, and Elaine brought those qualities as well as her characteristic friendliness to the role.

HIS Sign co-founder Brian Hammrich recalls that Elaine “interacted with everyone taking the exam and screening” and played a key part in “keeping the VQAS written exam and the performance screening current.” Co-founder Christina Hammrich calls Elaine “the face of VDDHH” who could be reached for all relevant matters. “It was so obvious that she loved her job and had a heart for the Deaf Community,” Christina says.

VDDHH Director Eric Raff specifically notes how Elaine’s “thorough dedication” helped to reduce the backlog of interpreting candidates when VQAS testing resumed after COVID quarantine. “She quickly processed everyone needing to take the test and ensured VQAS got back on track.”

Attributes and Strengths

When they think of Elaine, everyone describes her calm demeanor and encouraging words. “Taking tests [is] a stressful, nerve-wracking experience,” Christina says, but Elaine “would put my mind at ease.” Brian recalls, “[Elaine’s] flexibility helped more interpreters achieve the screening level required to fill school positions.”

Even after 5 years at VDDHH, Eric can remember that Elaine was “pleasant and easy to work with” from the get-go. She also “liked to bring in food to share with other staff.” Such small gestures truly made everyone feel welcome to the Deaf/Hard of Hearing community.

Special Memories

Eric’s best memories of Elaine involve her “raving about grandchildren, onion rings and brownies.” Christina and Brian, meanwhile, remember her as their proctor for the VQAS. They recall that “Elaine made everyone feel very comfortable and answered all questions prior to distributing the written exam.” She “calmly went through the steps” of the exam, gave everyone “ample time to get ready,” and accommodated test-takers as best as possible. 

Christina says, “I am so blessed to have known her and wish her all the best in her new chapter of life.” All of us who spent time with Elaine feel the same way.

HIS Sign Interpreting: an Interpreting Services Provider and Resource for the Deaf/Hard of Hearing Community

In addition to our onsite and virtual ASL Interpreting, TypeWell, and CART services, HIS Sign has vibrant relationships with the Deaf/Hard of Hearing community throughout the DMV. If you have stories, questions, feedback, or ideas for “Impacting an Industry,” feel free to shoot an email at

CEO of HIS Sign

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