Bill would require all sign language interpreters in SC hospitals, courtrooms and schools to become certified

Bill would require all sign language interpreters in SC hospitals, court rooms and schools to become certified

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Lawmakers are mulling over a piece of legislation that would require all sign language interpreters in the state to be nationally certified before they can be hired to work in hospitals, courtrooms, and public schools.

Anita Steichen-McDaniel, the executive director for the South Carolina Association of the Deaf.

She said uncertified interpreters could be causing issues for people in the deaf and hard of hearing community in South Carolina.

"It's so frustrating,” Steichen-McDaniel said through an interpreter. “I feel like communication is not accessible. It's very frustrating. It's not just me. So many people in the deaf and hard of hearing community are frustrated."

Right now, there are about 75 certified interpreters in the state according to the South Carolina Association of the Deaf. Steichen-McDaniel believes there are thousands of people in South Carolina that need an interpreter.

"I receive so many phone calls from deaf people saying they need sign language interpreters,” she said. “Maybe a 100 people a month call wanting some help locating an interpreter."

In South Carolina there are no set state standards or criteria for sign language interpreters. Senator Katrina Shealy (R-Lexington) filed the Sign Language Interpreters Act in December 2018.

"It's our obligation to the public to get the right message to them and we're not doing that," Sen. Shealy said.

The Sign Language Interpreters Act would require community interpreters to be nationally certified before they can work in hospitals, courtrooms, and other places where they might be needed. If they work in public schools, they must also have a certain score on the Educational Interpreter Performance Assessment.

"People need to have the right credentials and we need to be responsible to check those credentials," Sen. Shealy said.

Steichen-McDaniel said having set standards would make a big difference.

"These interpreters are the voice of the deaf person," she said.

Some said this legislation if passed could cut down on the number of available interpreters in South Carolina and could have a negative impact on accessibility but Steichen-McDaniel said it's better to have quality over quantity.

The Sign Language Interpreters Act is currently in committee.

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