State to set
professional standards to protect deaf
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Sign language interpreters
to be licensed and regulated
[September 14, 2007]
SPRINGFIELD -- Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich
signed a law Wednesday that protects people who are deaf or hard of
hearing from unqualified and unskilled sign language interpreters.
Senate Bill 259, the Interpreter for the Deaf Licensure Act of 2007,
establishes statewide licensing standards for registered
interpreters. Sponsored by state Sen. Deanna Demuzio, D-Carlinville,
and state Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago, the legislation ensures
those individuals who are in need of interpretive services will be
paired with qualified interpreters who are subject to professional
"This law will help make sure people who need reliable sign
language services get them from licensed professionals and also
allows them to file a complaint if they're getting poor services
from unqualified interpreters," the governor said.
Presently, sign language interpreters are required to register
with the Illinois Deaf and Hard of Hearing Commission. However,
there is an absence of detailed professional standards that can be
used to hold service providers accountable for the quality of their
services. Without standards or penalties, people receiving
inadequate services lack a way to report problems or file complaints
with state regulators.
"The signing of SB
259 is a great day for Illinois deaf and hard of hearing citizens
and sign language interpreters. Illinois today joins in the national
trend in recognizing the interpreting profession," said John Miller,
director of the Illinois Deaf and Hard of Hearing Commission. "Sign
language interpreters provide a valuable service and ensure full
communication access for deaf and hard of hearing citizens and
service providers. Additionally, licensing of sign language
interpreters establishes accountability and standards for the
profession. We applaud the governor and the General Assembly in
recognizing the importance of this legislation."
The bill establishes, for the first time, a licensing system to
guarantee oversight of professional services for people who are deaf
or hard of hearing. The legislation accomplishes this goal by:
Requiring the Illinois Deaf and Hard of Hearing Commission to
develop and enforce standards to license and regulate interpreters
for the deaf or hard of hearing.
Establishing a Board of Interpreters for the Deaf who will define
standards and advise the commission on interpreter assessment and
Giving the commission and the Illinois Department of Financial
and Professional Regulation oversight, enforcement and disciplinary
authority over licensed interpreters.
Creating the Interpreters for the Deaf Fund with revenue
generated from fees and penalties paid by interpreters who are in
violation of state standards.
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Under the new law, any complaint filed against an interpreter by
a person who is deaf or hard of hearing can be reported. If
subsequent investigations confirm the allegations, licensed
interpreters will be disciplined as outlined by law.
Interpreters who are not licensed by the state can continue to
interpret at the request of an individual as long as they inform the
deaf individual that they are not licensed. The same general rule
applies in situations when the individual who is hearing-impaired
agrees to the use of video remote interpreting or other forms of
communication other than licensed interpreter services.
The law exempts interpreters who provide services in religious
activities, emergency situations and students who are supervised by
qualified interpreters. Interpreters who work in education settings
will continue to follow standards set by the Illinois State Board of
The law was enacted coinciding with Deaf Awareness Day on Sept.
12. More than 40 exhibitors from social services agencies and
businesses filled the atrium of the James R. Thompson Center in
Chicago. Deaf Awareness Day participants offered information and
resources for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Additionally,
the Division of Rehabilitation Services of the Illinois Department
of Human Services sponsored a public forum to educate the community
on the services offered by DRS and the Illinois Deaf and Hard of
Senate Bill 259 becomes effective immediately.
[Text from file received from
Illinois Office of
Communication and Information]