According to the Linguistic Society of America, there are approximately 6,500 spoken languages. Spoken words are not required for the American Sign Language community, but it is still demanding to be heard and acknowledged.
The lack of certified interpreters, especially during times of urgency, causes unequal access to information and harm to the deaf and hard-of-hearing. During a Hurricane Irma evacuation alert in Manatee County, Fla. on Sept. 8, 2017, county officials failed to provide a certified interpreter. As a result, an amateur interpreter misinformed the deaf and hard-of-hearing people in the community.
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 was established to ensure that deaf and hard-of-hearing people have the same access to information as hearing people do.
It requires proper knowledge and communication in select facilities such as schools, hospitals and police departments. But it does not specify that certification to sign is required of employees or interpreters in every establishment.
Certified ASL interpreter Amy Leigh Hair has been signing for over 30 years around America. In that time, she has signed for President Donald Trump, Bill Clinton and Senator Marco Rubio. Hair believes sign language interpreting is a field that should be taken seriously.
“It makes me sick that people are out there working with no credentials,” Hair said.
In the future, Hair hopes proper screening will be required for interpreters to be hired for a position.
CEO of Homeland Language Services Christian Lanazca is responsible for distributing interpreters with the right credentials. Lanazca’s goal is to give his clients the best service possible.
“I have received feedback from a client [who was having] difficulties finding companies to get someone with experience and certification," Lanazca said. "It’s hard to find someone with experience and education, so we’re happy they found us and were able to provide for them."