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Interpreter Certification

As we discussed in a recent post, The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) recently celebrated its 25th Anniversary.

The primary function of the ADA is to ensure that individuals with disabilities have equal access to the rights and responsibilities of daily living.

And though a great deal of headway has been made in moving towards equality for all people, large gaps still exist and these gaps must be bridged.

A perfect and unfortunate example of the disparity that remains has played itself out in the form of a lawsuit filed by three Deaf people in the State of Colorado.

These individuals and two of their significant others filed suit in Arapahoe District Court alleging that they were provided with “interpreters” who claimed to be specialized sign language interpreters but in fact were not so much as certified or credentialed in the profession of sign language interpretation, much less specialized.

This is significant because in situations such as this one, many potentially sensitive and private issues are discussed.

Because of the technical language being used, certified, credentialed interpreters are of the essence in order to guarantee that each and every detail of the conversation is communicated with clarity and accuracy.

Certified interpreters not only possess the sophisticated language skills necessary to discuss complex matters such as the situation described above, they are also required to adhere to certain standards of professionalism and confidentiality. These standards ensure that Deaf or Hard of Hearing people receive effective communication in medical, social services, and business contexts.

Of course it’s a sad irony when the accommodation provided actually ends up doing more harm than good.

And for those of us who have spent years advocating for equal rights, it’s incredibly frustrating to learn that a quarter of a century after the ADA was passed, we still have inappropriate and ineffective accommodations being provided by interpreting service agencies.

But as Mahatma Gandhi famously said, “Become the change you want to see in the world.”

This is exactly what we aim to do here at DSU. A few of the ways we do that are as follows:

  • We use only nationally certified interpreters who hold a state license.
  • We require this for “in-person” interpreters as well as those who provide interpreting services remotely over a video conferencing platform.
  • Before an interpreter is allowed to provide services through our agency he/she is screened by our team of evaluators. This includes a thorough background check that verifies education, experience, and certifications.
  • The potential interpreter must provide a live demonstration of his/her interpreting skills.
  • Once the interpreter has passed our standards for services test, then and ONLY THEN will we schedule him/her for assignments.
  • Finally, we work diligently to match their interpreter’s specialty with the needs of client as dictated by the situation at hand.

In conclusion, unless you are working with an agency that is committed to quality services, your organization may be at risk of violating the ADA and you may be opening yourself up to potential legal action.

The good news is, it is easy to avoid this. If the agency you utilize does not have the same standards as we maintain here at DSU, make the change today.