Sign Language Interpreter Licensure is a critical topic to those of us working, providing, and receiving interpreting services in the District of Columbia. What happens in the District could easily affect future licensure laws in the surrounding states of Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia and Delaware. Therefore, it is essential that legislation be done right the first time around. On April 30, 2011, Andrea K. Smith, Chair of the ad hoc Licensure Committee, presented her findings on the state of licensure laws across the United States. You will find that there no two laws are alike - each state has different structures, requirements and penalties that make the discussion of licensure such a daunting endeavor.
As our legislators and other vested parties vie for a place at the drafting table, PCRID has a duty to be involved and advocate for the rights of sign language interpreters in our region. Our DCAD Liaison and ad hoc Licensure Committee Chair have been actively participating in meetings, hearings and other discussions; however we need member support and involvement in educating these constituents about the interpreter role and our rights as professional sign language interpreters. We invite you to begin the dialog among your colleagues and get the word out about how licensure is on the horizon and that we need to be prepared. PCRID appreciates your input on providing recommendations and considerations and we will keep you posted on events and meetings that involve this important topic. For more information, to ask a question or to get involved, please email us at email@example.com or post a comment on this page.
This is the PowerPoint Presentation from PCRID's April 30, 2011 workshop "License To Drive: How New Legislation Affects You" presented by Andrea K. Smith.
Notes From the Workshop
Groups of deaf people in DC want to propose a law to force service providers to get licensed. They've been burned too many times by the spoken language agencies and other random companies that are getting into the game. Furthermore, it would be only for DC government funded entities that require a service provider to be licensed. So, any entity that gets funds from DC gov’t will have to follow this law. It does not include the Federal government and private companies. Also, it is not based on the individual interpreter, but the service provider. If their license gets revoked, they cannot provide sign language interpreters to those entities that are funded with DC govt monies. Is this the best way to go? Especially considering that it will set a precedent for the surrounding states. I personally, as an interpreter, feel that this is NOT the best way to go. I think we need to take it down to the individual level too. And the law needs to reflect the interests of ALL parties, which includes the interpreters. In the end, WE are the ones paying the licensure renewals every year and getting the penalties for not following the law. Please feel free to weigh in on the discussion.
- We have to clearly define the term "qualified" and how it is used in the law. Refer to ADA but other than that, not sure where else to begin. We, as interpreters, may have to draft something up in the way of definitions.
- Registration vs. license: With a registration - a person is NOT forbidden to work without the document. With a license - a person IS forbidden to work without the document. In our case, it’s proposed that SOMEONE needs a license in order to practice in DC. It isn't necessarily the individual interpreter, but the actual service provider. Is this the best way to go?
- When it comes to licensure, we (as interpreters) are being told what we are allowed to do and how to do it. That is scary in the sense that the law currently does not truly reflect our work and confines us further.
- Andrea presented on 16 different state's licensure laws. Those were the most current to date. There are other states that require registration only.
- To label a person "Deaf or Hard of Hearing" in the law is too narrow of a label, what about individuals with Autism or speech disabilities? Any others you can think of that would be affected by this law?
- What about Cuers? What about trilinguals?
- There's always a loophole - service providers can somehow figure out to get out of the system. We have to consider them and close those loopholes up.
- VRS - Many loopholes for VRS. Licensure is not required from VRS providers. Right or wrong? Should we include them in our laws here in DC/MD/VA/WVA/DE/PA or will they be left out? They're usually excluded because of jurisdictional issues. Perhaps it’s hard to regulate those that are serving individuals in other states. How can the deaf know where to file a complaint when the VI is told not to disclose their location or their names? How do we regulate that?
- Ways that some states define a CDI; they call them a Linguistic Specialist. Good term to use in our laws? What do you think?
- For complaints, some states only give a person 30-90 days to complain. This is NOT enough time. Especially when the deaf person does not feel immediate repercussion from a lousy interpretation until months or years later. How about the interpreter themselves, how do they file a complaint? I'd like a mechanism to be able to do so. Also, it should be easy for the deaf person to complain, they shouldn’t have to get a lawyer to figure out how to complain or go into a office to file it. It should be accessible.
- PCRID should set up a page about "How to become an interpreter" - in the FAQ.
- Licensure costs money people. Some states charge a fee up to $300 a year. Are there an individual fee and a service provider fee?
- Should RID Certification be a requirement in the law? Especially with the whole NIC scandal, do people trust the RID Certification? What happens in 15 years when there could be a new certifying body in town, will the law still be valid? Changing a law is tougher than creating one. What if Maryland comes up with their own screening, is that included in the laws? Will it be transferable to the other states.
- What about if you work in five states – will you have to pay five different fees for five different licenses?
- Will there be exceptions for educational interpreters? In PA, they initially included educational interpreters, then the school districts lobbied to remove them citing lack of resources and guess what - they were excluded. Therefore perpetuating sub-par skills in the K-12 environment. How do we approach it in our area?
- US Federal Government is excluded from most laws. So, most of DC wouldn't be affected anyway. BUT - that could change in the future.
- What about independent interpreters that own their own LLCs or corporations - but they only employ themselves. Are they considered an individual or a provider? both?
- David Nelson, from DCAD is a supporter of licensure since his constituents are ready for a change. How can we best support DCAD while asserting ourselves?
- What about students and internships, will there be allowances for that? Provisional licenses? What are the requirements for that?
- I am not against licensure, but I really want a seat at that table to discuss our perspective. Thank you to Andrea and Bethany for your hard work. Please keep us posted on upcoming meetings and other events so that I can attend.