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Lawmakers Looking to Increase Qualifications for ASL Interpreters for Emergency Broadcasts

February 5th, 2018 by Jake Stofan

The Legislation has cleared one committee in the House and one in the Senate.

During an emergency situation, Floridian’s rely on broadcasts from the Division of Emergency Management to receive important information and updates. For Florida’s estimated 200,000 adults living with hearing impairments, the televised updates can be crucial.

On a broadcast by Manatee County Emergency Management during Hurricane Irma, an unqualified American Sign Language interpreter butchered important evacuation orders. He stopped frequently throughout the broadcast, signing words like “pizza”, “monster” and “bear”.

“Even if it’s one incident, I mean that could be thousands of people that get the wrong information,” said Representative Richard Stark.

The incident sparked outrage among the deaf community and interpreters.

“Everyone was shocked and asking the leaders in the deaf community to do something about it,” said former President of the National Association of the Deaf, Chris Wagner.

In light of the blunder, Stark filed new Legislation gaining traction in the Legislature would require the Division of Emergency Management to higher State or Nationally certified ASL interpreters to translate during weather emergencies.

The Legislation has the support of deaf organizations who say they’re often overlooked by the state.

“They feel the state doesn’t take serious enough concerns of the hearing impaired,” said Stark.

The Devision of Emergency Management says they already include ASL interpreters during their broadcasts. But it says the legislation would ensure accountability on a state and local level so only qualified interpreters are used.

In Florida, there are 564 ASL interpreters certified by the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf.

The Legislation has cleared one committee in the House and one in the Senate.

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