When it comes to Licensure and Certification the requirements vary depending on which state you are in, but the expectation of licensure depending on the profession is controversial. Licensure/certifications do not define whether a person is qualified, there are many who know qualified interpreters that are among those who for whatever reason don’t always get certified. Because of this, states are required to come up with licensure requirements and methods for screening for a level of quality in all interpreters on their own without any comparison. RID has long since rallied for their certification to be mandated by states that require interpreters to be certified even as their national testing failure rates are in the high 80s. This has made it extremely difficult for other competitors to provide certifying exams that would be recognized as part of the licensure process especially when there really is no agreement on what is the appropriate way to evaluate an interpreter’s competency level.
One example of a state that this has long been an issue in is Colorado. It is not until the end of September that the Board for Evaluation of Interpreters [BEI] certification will be considered an option for certification to meet the licensure requirements for the state of Colorado. This leads to some questions about what are the qualifications vs certifications for an interpreter in the field and which environment they are interpreting in. A qualified interpreter is not defined within the ADA, there are varying accommodation-based laws which restrictions being lax in some states and restrictive in others. We see how states are left to determine what does or does not constitute qualified interpreters and have been continually struggling through the years to find a system that would effectively work and meet the needs of their communities.
The certification process is a concern. Many BIPOC interpreters struggle with the certifying process under RID because it is very white-centric. Multiple BIPOC interpreters have also expressed disinterest in getting certified by an organization that does not represent their values. This was evident in their recent action through a mass resignation of the board in June of 2021 where multiple BIPOC leaders along with the rest of the board resigned citing racism as a huge issue within the organization and that there were no movements in changing the system as they knew it today.
The lack of support for varying modes of communication that the Deaf communities use to communicate is also a concern. If you are somewhat familiar with the community, you will be aware of the varying modalities for the sighted Deaf community including Signing Exact English, Cued Speech, Pidgin sign language, Black American Sign Language, and Plain Indians Sign Language to name a few. It’s important to recognize that very few of these sign modes/sign languages have a certification process or even a standard system that all states could even compare to with professionals who are experienced enough to even administer such a test.
We would be remiss if we were not to include some concerns about the lack of certification for the DeafBlind community interpreters as well, because of their specific modalities including but not limited to haptics, pro tactile ASL, and tactile. How do consumers get protection if their language is not even recognized by the one organization that has attempted to monopolize the interpreting profession throughout the United States.
The good news is more and more states are recognizing the need for a variety of certifications allowances to not be centric around RID however that is a whole other ball game.. The real question here is, how do consumers get the support they need to file complaints against poor quality interpreters and accountability for agencies that do not have their consumers’ best interests at heart.
This is where interpreter licensure laws come into play. If the state takes it into their own hands and allows for their state Commissioner for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and DeafBlind to handle the evaluation and determination of qualification then perhaps this could help resolve some of the more difficult issues. This also allows for the state-based Deaf community to participate in the determination and valuation of their interpreters. One state that does this is Massachusetts where the local commissioner evaluates incoming interpreters that want to work in the state of Massachusetts. Maine requires a 3+ on your American Sign Language Proficiency Interview (an assessment done at Gallaudet University) before discussing licensure.
Deaf Vee Journal did a quick survey in the community and got 8 responses to the question, “The ASLPI by Gallaudet University – Do you feel like it’s an accurate measurement of the level of comprehension and knowledge of ASL?” Out of 8 people that replied to the survey within 24 hours 6 people replied “No” and two replied, “I don’t know”.
If you are curious about the varying state laws and regulations RID has offered a page where you can select your state and read up more information!. (RID State-by-State Regulations)