Through an interpreter, the General Law Committee heard testimony Tuesday on legislation seeking to increase the number of American Sign Language interpreters able to provide specialized medical or legal translation services to deaf Connecticut residents.
The bill, requested by the House Republican Caucus, aims to reduce barriers for qualified interpreters by allowing translators who have applicable credentials in Massachusetts to register in Connecticut and would allow current interpreters a grace period to renew their registrations.
During a public hearing, Branford resident Sandra Inzinga offered some adjustments to what she described as a good bill. Inzinga encouraged lawmakers to ensure that mental health interpreting is reflected in the legislation.
“There has been an increase in focus on mental health services in general and that goes the same for deaf folks as well,” she said. “Access to those services is extremely difficult, especially when interpreters are involved.”
As of December, there were around 450 people on the state’s list of registered interpreters, largely certified through the national Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf.
“It is no secret that there is a shortage of individuals who are qualified to provide interpreting services in both medical and legal settings,” House Republicans wrote in testimony submitted for the committee’s hearing. “One way to address this shortage is to reduce barriers to registration for qualified interpreters.”
Inzinga said that most interpreters in Connecticut function as “community interpreters,” and provide general purpose services but are not necessarily qualified for more technical work.
“Interpreters not only have to understand the jargon of a particular field, but they also have to make sure that their language in itself is appropriate for the individual that they’re working with,” Inzinga said.
Throughout the testimony, state interpreter Caleigh McKenna switched gears and translated Inzinga’s words in English for lawmakers on the committee. Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield, remarked on
“By the way, Ms. McKenna, very nice to hear your voice. Beautiful voice,” Kissel said. “I always see you but I never hear you.”