BOISE, Idaho — The opportunity to engage in your own city government is a right, not a privilege. By honoring a recent request for accessibility, a Boise city council member is ensuring everyone has access to civic engagement.
For the first time in at least a decade, ASL interpreters were on hand at last Tuesday’s regular Boise City Council meeting.
“I thought we need to make an extra effort to make sure that we’re making it possible for those folks to come and participate in the public hearing,” said Council member Lisa Sánchez, City of Boise.
The October 28 meeting featured a hearing on proposed rules and regulations on application fees charged by landlords in Boise. “That also affects people with disabilities and deaf people, both,” said Raymond Lockary, Boise citizen.
Lockary, who is able to hear with a cochlear implant, asked city council to provide ASL interpreters at Tuesday’s meeting. “And I said, ‘You know what? let me check on that!'” said Sánchez.
Steven Snow, executive director of the Idaho Council for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, says, ideally, ASL interpreters would be at meetings every week, since he says it would encourage civic engagement among the deaf community.
“Deaf people pay taxes, they attend public schools, they really live in various walks of life in Idaho. So, those discussions and those decisions that are happening at the Boise City Council meetings will impact us,” said Snow.
And with growth comes diversity. With roughly 1200 people moving to Ada County per month, Snow says the deaf community in Boise is growing “exponentially.” Sánchez says hiring the ASL translators requires taxpayer dollars, which is why they’re currently only provided when requested.
“It’s kind of a ‘chicken and an egg thing,’ ya know? Perhaps more people would come to city council meetings if they knew those services were provided– and we will continue to provide those services, if more people come to city council meetings,” said Sánchez.
She said, on her end, she’ll try to spread more awareness on agenda items like Tuesday’s that relate to everyone. Council members also provided a Spanish translator and child care professionals at Tuesday’s meeting.