Monday, November 14, 2005

Fight Over Interpreters at Utah State University

It's apparently disability law day in Utah (or Utah day at the disabilitylaw blog). See this article, which begins:

Deaf students are threatening to sue Utah State University, claiming a lack of sign-language interpreters limits the classes they can take.

Utah State officials say they are trying to meet the needs of a dozen hearing-impaired students despite a statewide shortage of sign-language interpreters.

Utah has about 200 certified sign-language interpreters and could use another 400, according to the Utah Division of Services to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

University officials say they are working to recruit more sign-language interpreters, but senior Jonathan Roberts, 24, of Logan, is tired of excuses.

"They haven't done anything, and it's getting worse," said Roberts, among students who hired Sandy attorney Dale Boam and filed a notice of intent to sue the school.


Blogger Daniel said...

I must be one of your three loyal readers. :-)

To my mind, this is one of those issues that clearly illustrates a major weakness of the ADA and what has helped to build resistance to it among the public. Part of my job is to coordinate interpreters for a university. The shortage of interpreters is very very real. Universities are not making such a shortage up to deny people their rights. It is not uncommon for me to pay interpreters to drive 100s of miles just for a two hour gig. Not only do I have to pay them milage, I also have to pay them a large amount of money to convince them to come out to my rural university. For one full-time student the cost for one semester is $15,000. That does not include the student who plays sports when I have to pay for a interpreter to travel 1000 miles round-trip, when I can even find one who wants to be away from their family for three days. I have one interpreter that works for me that makes as much per hour as a academic vice-president. She can command that wage rate because either I pay her or have no interpreter at all.

Another significant issue is finding an interpreter at the academic level of the student. Ever tried to find two intepreters that can handle a three hour graduate course in chemistry? Ha ha ha.

I really do understand the deaf student's frustration. But it is a frustration for lots of people. There are many people who are trying to make the ADA work on a day-to-day basis and then they get sued because the cannot handle the impossible task imposed upon them.

I believe that the ultimate solution has to be political, not judicial. The supply of interpreters is inelastic. The work is physically demanding and requires a great deal of human relations skills. The demands by deaf students has already far outstripped the supply. There needs to be a more comprehensive approach to solving this issue than can be done by the court system.

I don't blame them for suing. But it really doens't help solve the problem, as far as I can see.

6:52 PM  

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