Letter to Legislators Protesting the Sunsetting of NC Licensures for ASL Interpreters

June 8, 2016

Dear Legislative Members on the Administrative Procedure Oversight Committee,

It is my understanding that your committee is considering the sunsetting of the NCITLB – the licensing board which guarantees minimum standards of those who  provide interpreter services for the deaf under the federally required ADA law.

As both a sign language interpreter and a program administrator who coordinates interpreter services in the medical field, I can attest to the fact that when a patient is not given a qualified interpreter, their health and safety are in jeopardy.  Because the testing and credentialing is not something easily done, we, as an agency, rely on the NC license to show who is qualified and who is not before we assign them to any appointments.

My understanding is that the reasons that some of the licensing boards are being considered for sunsetting is that they are deemed irrelevant and/or too restrictive in allowing those who choose that profession to enter the field.  I can assure you that it is vital that interested parties prove their qualifications in order to protect the health and well-being of those whom we serve – both the Deaf and the medical providers.  Imagine, if you will, that someone who takes a few sign language classes and thinks they are now qualified to interpret (a complex mental process) at a cardiology appointment where the patient is being told they have a myocardial infarction and they are dealing with the occlusion of a coronary artery as a consequence of atherosclerosis. Also imagine that a Deaf patient is trying to tell their doctor about the symptoms they have been experiencing, but the person who only knows basic signs gives the wrong description to the physician who then gives an incorrect diagnosis and treatment and subsequently the patient dies.

Continued licensure for sign language interpreters enables the patient to know that there has been extensive, rigorous training and testing in order for the communication to be equally accessible under the ADA as well as being assured that the interpreter follows professional standards by adhering to a national code of ethics.  Without licensure, there is no mandate to do so, and I am concerned that many unnecessary lawsuits could follow due to utilizing unqualified individuals.

Therefore, I am asking that North Carolina will continue to require licensure for all Interpreters and Transliterators, and that the NC Interpreter and Transliterator Licensing Board be removed from the list of occupational licensing agencies recommended for sunset in the current draft bill.

Lynn Brooks
WIN Program Administrator | WCMS Interpreter Network
Western Carolina Medical Society

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