New Michigan Sign Language Interpreter Rules Affect 1.2 Million People

The Michigan Department of Civil Rights is administering new rules that create different levels of sign language interpreters, rules that affect over 1.2 million deaf and hard-of-hearing Michiganders.  The different levels of interpreters correspond to the importance of the speech in need of translating - for example, legal advice and forensic psychiatric evaluations require the highest level of competence.

From MLive:

"LANSING, MI - New requirements take effect today for business and organizations that hire sign language interpreters in Michigan, creating different levels of qualifications for specific types of communication.

The changes will affect nearly 1.2 million deaf, deaf and blind and hard of hearing people in Michigan and the thousands of businesses and institutions required to have an interpreter, said Matt Wesaw, director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights.

[']A new set of rules for a little known state law may not seem terribly important,['] said Wesaw. [']But let me assure you this is a big deal.[']

The department has been working on the changes for the past seven years and is holding news conferences across the state to raise awareness.

The changes specify interpreters with certain skill sets for different types of communications in schools, hospitals, courts, and other offices.

The changes also are meant to make it easier to file complaints and get them investigated.

Organizations who hire interpreters [']may no longer meet the qualifications required to work in that setting,['] said Leslee Fritz, deputy director of the department. [']So what you’ve always done prior to today may no longer be allowed under these rules.[']

The highest level requirement, is for communication that may be complex and the consequences of miscommunication could be life altering, including in legal communication and forensic psychiatric evaluations.

Lower level requirements apply to interpreters for workshops, meetings, job training and political events. Interpreters are ranked through a standardized test.

There is a separate requirement for interpreters in an education setting. The new rules also set up standards for interpreters working over video chat.

If someone has experienced a violation or has questions about the new rules, Fritz said they should contact the department.

Businesses and institutions who offer interpreters can also contact the department if they have any questions on how to comply with the new laws."