Sign language interpreters across the country are having a hard time getting the certifications they need to work legally. A few states like Texas offer their own testing and licensure processes.
However, many others rely on the Registry for the Interpreters of the Deaf, a private company not associated with the government, for their licenses.
“RID is the only national organization that specifically focuses on sign language interpreters in the United States,” said Anna Witter-Merithew, the interim executive director of RID. Now, some interpreters argue that RID is rigging the game in its favor since it is the only nationally recognized certification agency in the country.
Stephanie Vance used to be an interpreter with Las Cruces Public Schools. New Mexico offers a five-year provisional license for interpreters before they are required to pass the national test.
“If you don’t get it within those five years you are no longer allowed to interpret in the state of New Mexico at all. If they catch you they fine you over $1,000 and can put you in jail for 364 days,” Vance said.
She took the national test three times and failed it every time. Vance lost her interpreting job with Las Cruces Public Schools and, instead, was offered an educational assistant position.