This post builds on the Introduction to Ethics post. If you have not read that yet, please go back and read it, then read this post.

Before I explain my RIDIR Framework (next post!) that has helped many people (and, helped many people pass their RID certification exams) there are a few foundational pieces that we all need to understand: ethical tests, rights-based ethics, and ethical maxims.

Hypothetical tests

Are questions you can ask yourself to understand the situation through different lenses.

  1. Utilitarianism (a type of consequentialism; i.e., the results are what matters)
    If everyone is treated equally, does this choice help the most people?
  2. Pragmatism (a strongly American way to see things)
    What is practical and useful? If it worked, then it was good choice.
  3. Universalizability (Immanuel Kant, read more)
    What if everyone made this choice?

When you think through your choices, ask yourselves these questions. I find the third test of universizability (despite its awkward name) to be the most useful test.

What are Rights-based Ethics?

Unlike the RID CPC which explains what you must, can, and cannot do, rights-based ethics look at situations based on various rights. Because they are based on rights and not rules, they have broader appeal and are more applicable. Here are some examples:

  • Right for all everyone to be treated fairly
  • Right to make your own decisions (empowerment)
  • Right to the truth
  • Right for people to decide the kind of life they want
  • Right to privacy
  • Right not to be harmed


Lastly, maxims. Maxims are foundational rules that can (almost) always be followed. When you are stuck, you can fall back on your maxims. They are nearly universal (not to be confused with universalizability) for every situation. Maxims would be deeply held personal, moral beliefs; they would apply beyond your professional life. Here is one example:

Always choose life
For example, would I step outside of my role as an interpreter if it would (or, might) save someone’s life? I would.

These are personal, so there are not right or wrong maxims, but you should carefully think through something before you integrate it into your decision-making models.

Next? My (not infamous) RIDIR model to solve all of your ethical dilemmas!

Emory David Dively

Emory is an NIC: Master ASL interpreter, has operated small and large agencies, and consulted with agencies across the US. He has an MA in Communication & Leadership from Gonzaga University.