New rules to help protect deaf, deafblind in high-stake settings

Posted at 2:25 PM, Jul 20, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-21 07:37:31-04

To ensure deaf and deafblind have the ability to communicate effectively in high-stakes situations like court proceedings and medical situation, new rules were established to classify interpreters.

“Improving access to our justice system is a top priority of the Supreme Court,” said Justice Bridget M. McCormack in a release.  “Whether it is tearing down the barrier of language access for those with limited English proficiency or providing qualified sign language interpreters for individuals who are deaf or deafblind, the ability to communicate effectively in court must be afforded to everyone.”

The new requirements establish the skill level and training required for professional sign language interpreters, and are divided into three minimum certification levels based on the complexity and risk of harm inherent in the interpreting situations.

The rules, which are now in effect, apply to all lawyers, doctors, businesses and other entities that may be legally required to provide interpreters. The greatest impact of the rules will be in courtrooms, hospitals, doctor’s offices, legal proceedings and mental health care providers and more in Michigan.

“In Michigan, providers have always been required to secure a qualified interpreter, but until now, there was no definition to help a provider know what that meant,” said Agustin Arbulu, Director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, the state department that houses the Division on Deaf, DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing (DODDBHH), in a release.  “Now, medical and legal offices, courts, hospitals and doctors’ offices will be able to identify an interpreter with the specific training and credential required to effectively and accurately handle the situation at hand.”

The standard levels for Michigan Certified ASL interpreters are:

STANDARD LEVEL 1 settings involve non-complex situations with low risk.  Qualified interpreters cannot interpret when topics relate to health, mental health, legal, employment, finance, or government.

STANDARD LEVEL 2 settings involve moderately complex situations with medium-high risk.  Qualified interpreters may interpret when topics relate to government, employment, or finance. 

STANDARD LEVEL 3 settings involve legal proceedings and high risk situations, for which the interpreter must also have a Legal Endorsement.