OLUMBIA, SC (WSPA)- A South Carolina lawmaker wants to make sure deaf and hearing impaired South Carolininas have access to qualified and certified sign language interpreters.
Right now, there isn’t a clear certification or standard at the state level for those currently providing sign language interpreting services.
It’s called the “Sign Language Interpreters Act.” The legislation would create state standards for interpreters. A move, members of the deaf community say is needed to protect the deaf and hard of hearing community members.
“There is a dire need. Our students are suffering. Our community members are suffering,” said Joshua Holmes, a graduate of Clemson University’s sign language program.
The state doesn’t have established criteria, certifications or qualifications for one to provide community based services.
Mary Beth Grayson with the SC Registry of Interpreters explained how limited access to quality and effective interpreters can have grave consequences. “Everyday we continue without regulations in the state we are putting deaf community members lives at risk.”
Wednesday afternoon, a special senate subcommittee reviewed a bill to establish those regulations. Hard of hearing community members say having a certified interpreter is crucial.
“Interpreters will bypass the hard work to sign in a way that is good enough. Unfortunately, that good enough can be very dangerous in a hospital, legal or emergency situation,” added Anita McDaniel with the SC Association of the Deaf.”
Having enough interpreters is also a statewide issue that needs to be addressed.
An outreach coordinator for the SC School for the Deaf and Blind provided emotional testimony to the group of lawmakers recapping his experiences with his parents, who are deaf.
“My mother was admitted to the hospital 2 years ago I waited in that waiting room for 2 hours for an interpreter. I was told many times there was not one available,” said Scott Falcone.
The bill would require national certification and a certain score on the Educational Interpreter Performance Assessment to provide services within the state’s public schools.
However, in order to receive certification an interpreter would have to have a bachelor’s degree. Agencies who provide interpreter services for the public fear the bill’s implementation would create larger gaps in services.
Emily Heatwole with SC Dept. of Education expressed those concerns. “With a group of folks already so small if in fact they were not appropriately credentialed we could end up with a student who may not receive the appropriate services.”
To give an example of possible gaps in services, right now there are about 100 sign language interpreters in the state’s public schools. If this bill becomes law, a third of those interpreters would be disqualified.
There are 76 certified interpreters currently registered in South Carolina.