A Michigan Supreme Court justice and state civil rights officials called attention Wednesday to new rules establishing specific certification levels for sign language interpreters to work in courtrooms, hospitals and other settings.
The regulations, which took effect July 7, outline skill levels and training needed for interpreters who must be provided by judges, attorneys, physicians, mental health providers and others.
“These extremely important medical situations or legal situations must have key, effective communication. Deaf, deaf blind and hard of hearing people … have a right to that,” Annie Urasky, director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights’ Division on Deaf, Deafblind and Hard of Hearing, said through an interpreter after a news conference at the Hall of Justice, which houses the Supreme Court and state Court of Appeals.
Urasky said there is a misconception that it is up to the deaf or deaf blind to have an interpreter when lawyers, doctors and others must legally provide the accommodation.
The new rules provide for three standard certification levels — one for non-complex meetings and educational classes, another for moderately complex situations such as government meetings and health care and the third for legal proceedings and psychiatric evaluations. The tiered system is a recognition that not all interpreting assignments are the same, Urasky said.
Officials said those needing an interpreter can visit the Michigan Online Interpreter System and find those who are certified at different levels.
Justice Bridget McCormack said the court is committed to improving access to the justice system.
“Whether it’s tearing down the barrier of language access for those with limited English proficiency or providing qualified sign language interpreters for deaf or hard of hearing individuals, the ability to effectively communicate and to be understood in our courts must be afforded to everyone,” she said.