Shortage of sign language interpreters

Posted at 10:56 PM, Dec 02, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-02 22:56:44-05

An agency that works to make sure the deaf have a voice says it is facing the most severe shortage of sign language interpreters seen in decades.

This comes after rules were put in place last year to protect the deaf. They called for interpreters in hospitals, courts and law offices to take a test and become certified by the state under law.

“There's a shortage of interpreters, and there is not enough because we are still waiting for those test results,” said Susan Lundy, of Deaf Community Advocacy Network in Sylvan Lake.

Lundy is deaf and says she has had to cancel appointments because interpreters aren’t available.

“We have interpreters who took the test in June, and still have not gotten their results,” said Marcy Colton, the Agency Director.

“Really it impacts both communities - deaf not having access, and interpreters losing out on job opportunities," said Dylan Secord, another Deaf C.A.N. worker who is deaf.

They know of some interpreters who took a certification test in June, were told they would have results in 90 days, and still don’t have results. They worry the situation will only get worse as new certification requirements on interpreters in schools go into effect come the 2016-2017 school year.

“What is going on in the state?” asked Lundy. “Why is it taking so long? They need to look into it."

7 Action News called the Michigan Department of Civil Rights and asked them to do just that. It oversees the testing. There is a shortage not only of interpreters but graders.

A spokesperson told us there are nine interpreters who have been delayed since they took the certification test in June.

The reasons?  There was a conflict of interest when a rater or grader knew the test-taker.  Then weather forced the cancellation of a grading session last month. 

Workers at Deaf CAN say something needs to be done to expedite the process in the future, so the deaf don’t go without a voice.

“We can’t allow this to continue,” said Secord.