Sign Language Interpreting Fund for Community and Family Inclusion

Photo of a sign language interpreter signing interpreter

One of the collateral benefits of a suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act is to build awareness of the needs of Persons with Disabilities. Unfortunately, most settlements are confidential, so this benefit is limited, and the only entity improving their polices or accessibility are the defendant in the case.  However, that was not the case with Rose Adams and her settlement with Cleveland Clinic Florida to provide sign language interpreters to Deaf patients.   When Cleveland Clinic Florida failed to comply with their requirements of the settlement agreement to train their staff to provide effective communication and interpreters, United District Court Judge Rodolfo Ruiz II had enough and held Cleveland Clinic Florida in contempt of Court.  After holding them in contempt and fining them $1,000.00 per day, it took only sixteen days to train its staff and comply with the settlement.

On March 14, 2022, pursuant to my request, Judge Ruiz ordered that the $16,000 be paid to the Center of Independent Living of Broward to administer a fund to pay for sign language interpreters.  The primary purpose of this fund is to pay for interpreters when there are no legal obligations to do so, or for a first job interview.

Pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act, all governmental entities, private businesses, and most employers (with 15 or more employees) are legally required to provide sign language interpreters for the Deaf if the communication is long, complex, or important.  However, there is no legal requirement to provide an interpreter for most social events that are an essential part of community life. This fund will be used to recompensate interpreters who provide services for these events, which include weddings, funerals, birthday parties, and similar activities.  This fund will be available for a hearing family who would like to invite a Deaf child to a birthday party, or a Deaf family that will have both hearing and Deaf people at a funeral.

In addition, the fund can also be used to pay for Deaf job seekers for a first job interview. Many times when a Deaf person applies for a job, and then asks for an interpreter for an interview, the application goes to the bottom of the pile of applicants. There is no requirement to hire the Deaf person, and as long as the employer hires a person who is qualified to do the job, there is no penalty for the employer. When a Deaf person can bring their own interpreter to a first interview, it takes away any thoughts of burdens from the employer and discover if the Deaf person would be a good fit for a job.

For years, I have seen my interpreter friends, like Brian Gauci, post volunteer interpreting assignments on Facebook, and many sign language interpreters spend hundreds of hours doing pro-bono work to interpret for the Deaf community.  Other times, interpreters or family members are hijacked from events to help with communication, when these folks shouldn’t be required to work at an event in which he or she is a guest.

The interpreter fund should provide for over 270 hours of interpreting time. The funds are available for interpreters who do this work. So if you are hearing and want to invite a Deaf person to a family event, ask the Deaf person what interpreter they prefer, and call and ask the interpreter to interpret for the event. For my Deaf friends, if you have a first job interview, or would like to go to a family event, tell your interpreters about this fund.