Interpreter for the Deaf Bill

Interpreter for the Deaf Bill

March 7, 2013

By Jason Pederson

Last summer, KATV put the spotlight on a problem at Arkansas Rehabilitation Services.

A woman had been hired as an interpreter for the deaf but she lacked the skills to do the job.

That particular issue has been resolved. But a larger problem remains.

While our coverage helped get the interpreter in question transferred to another job and now there is a qualified professional in that position serving ARS clients….the same thing could happen again.

Regular viewers of Little Rock city board meetings recognize the man in the bubble: Ray James.

James, who lives in Mayflower, and other interpreters help keep the deaf and hearing-impaired community knowledgeable about the goings-on of city government.

James is professionally licensed nationally and in the state of Texas, but he says Arkansas is behind the times when it comes to making sure interpreters are qualified.

“Between 10 to 215 years,” says James. “We’re that far behind with legislative mandates or a commission for the deaf. We’ve never had that in Arkansas.”

State Senator Bryan King is sponsoring a bill that, if it becomes law, will ensure that all interpreters for the deaf or hard of hearing be licensed and qualified.

King was joined while presenting the bill this week by James and Cheryl Thomas of Cabot, another licensed interpreter.

“We interpret in every facet of life,” explains Thomas. “From court rooms to people’s personal lives. And if somebody is not a professional interpreter, is not trained and is not skilled you don’t know what you’re getting. You could be opening yourself up to a lawsuit.”

King’s bill is currently being amended to add a deadline for getting licensed and to add a grace period for interpreters to get licensed if they are discovered to be practicing without one.

The proposed penalty for interpreting without a license could be as high as $500, and up to $1,000 for hiring an unqualified interpreter.

There are about 180 licensed interpreters working in the state.

They collectively want this bill to pass because they say when unqualified people help the deaf or hard of hearing at a medical appointment or job interview, everybody suffers.


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