Licensing interpreters will aid deaf community

On Dec. 5, the world lost Nelson Mandela, an icon for the anti-apartheid movement. His work to promote reconciliation and equality in South Africa was honored by leaders from around the globe, as tens of thousands gathered to celebrate his life and legacy. While 11 official languages are spoken in South Africa, and while dozens more were spoken by those who came to remember Mandela, one language was shockingly absent. Sign language was not available, as the interpreter was incoherent, leaving members of the deaf community in South Africa excluded from full participation.

This event highlights the need to examine communication between hearing and deaf communities locally. New York State would do much to promote the inclusion of the deaf community by approving legislation that would license qualified interpreters. This would potentially protect the deaf community from unqualified sign language interpreters. The measure could prevent something like the unfortunate incident that occurred in South Africa from happening in New York State. The Empire Association of the Deaf, the National Association of the Deaf and the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf are working together to promote state-by-state interpreting licensure.

Much can be done to promote awareness and inclusion of the deaf community at the local level as well. Deaf Adult Services applauds the efforts of local retailers who hire staff who are conversant in American Sign Language and we encourage more employers to invest in their staff by offering ASL training. Deaf Adult Services offers interpreting services for the community. Interpreters are carefully screened professionals who play a critical role in promoting communication access between deaf and hearing communities. Deaf Adult Services also offers a wide variety of classes in ASL to promote communication and awareness. Working together, we can help make Western New York a more inclusive community.

Steve Lovi

Executive Director

Deaf Adult Services