A bill advancing at the Capitol sets standard for Sign Language interpreters serving Wisconsin’s deaf and hard of heating. The bill’s author said it’s the product of six years of work with organizations including the Wisconsin Association of the Deaf.

“It’s about the quality of interpreters for the deaf and hard of hearing,” said State senator Neal Kedzie, an Elkhorn Republican whose district includes the Wisconsin School for the Deaf. “We are talking about the different skill sets of individuals who provide these services. If that person gets it wrong, interpreting to an individual, it could be catastrophic. It could be financial catastrophe. It could be devastating in terms of health decisions that are made. Imagine going over the details of a will and not having it interpreted correctly.”

The bill requires licensing of compensated Sign Language interpreters by the Department of Regulation and Licensing, and creates a nine member Sign Language Interpreter Council. An amendment which would have allowed school interpreters certified by the Department of Public Instruction to be eligible for the same license was rejected: Kedzie said those interpreters don’t meet the same standards. The bill (SB 389) passed the Senate on a bipartisan and could be scheduled for an Assembly vote before the end of the legislative session in April.

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