February 29, 2016
200 S. Alto Mesa Street
El Paso, TX 79912
Via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
We are writing in response to the February 26, 2016, report by Meghan Lopez titled “Unpassable: why a private company controls national sign language interpreter licenses.” This report has significant misinformation and flawed representation of the facts. To achieve your goal of “news you can count on” and “fair and balanced” coverage, we implore that you make the necessary corrections for a fair and balanced story for ALL of your viewers.
The first major oversight is that Ms. Lopez failed to include the perspective of Deaf consumers on the holistic topic of qualified interpreters and how that is measured. Instead of making this about an individual who has not yet passed the national standard, it should have been about the difficulty Deaf individuals’ encounter in gaining access to qualified and competent interpreting services. It is their experience that should be represented in the forefront of this story, not hidden under the highlight of one individual’s multiple attempts to pass a national standard.
In the report, Ms. Lopez states, “Nowhere in the ADA does the law require interpreters to be certified in order to work legally.” Where is the interview with the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) or the local NAD state affiliate on what qualified means to the Deaf community? It is indeed correct that the ADA doesn’t specify any certification as a determination of qualified. However if the Deaf community and state regulatory agencies define qualified as certified in practice, then certification serves as an important indicator of skills, abilities, experience, and qualification. Just as with other professions, there is no entitlement to practice until a level of standard is met. Why does the reporter assume sign language interpreting should be different from other professions in that regard?
Second, Ms. Lopez inaccurately represented the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, Inc. (RID) as a private company. RID is a 501(c)3, non-profit organization established for the purpose of protecting the interests of society, which includes Deaf consumers who seek linguistic access. It is for this reason that RID has worked for many years within the Deaf and interpreter communities to define national standards of competence and practice and to create testing and certification programs to meet the needs of consumers.
Third, RID does not offer licensure as stated. It offers testing and certification. It is the individual states, through appropriate government regulatory agencies, that establish licensure or engage regulation. Some states include specific reference to RID certification within their regulatory and licensure language, while some only reference a national standard, allowing other interpreter credentialing systems to be used to recognize professional level competence. The states define their laws and regulations, not RID.
Fourth, the title of the report using the word “unpassable” is again misleading and inaccurate. While the 2015 NIC pass rate was about 20%, it is not unpassable. Those who pass tend to do so within their first or second attempt.
Had Ms. Lopez put the issue of testing of interpreters into a broader context, such as the one provided to her in the National Consortium of Interpreter Education Centers (NCIEC) Trends Report, she would have shared vital information to the general community by making them aware of the need for improving interpreter education programs, creating more internship experiences, and providing supervised work experience to help the testing pool for national certification to be better prepared for meeting the national standard.
If you don’t look at how interpreters are being prepared and what the standards are to meet the Deaf community needs, then you are not, in any way, showing impact. By only highlighting the experience of an individual interpreter who failed the test, you missed the real issues that exist. This report is a lost opportunity to highlight the true impact on your viewing area; a goal that Ms. Lopez indicated to us was her purpose for the report.
Fifth, Ms. Lopez’s reporting as to who was/is in “charge” of testing is another point of inaccuracy. RID began certifying interpreters in 1972. NAD also started certifying interpreters for a brief period between 1991-2002. She erroneously stated that NAD had been certifying interpreters since their inception nearly 150 years ago. In 2002/2003, NAD and RID agreed to work together to create the current joint test which began administration in 2005, not 2008 as she reported. RID did not “take over” as Ms. Lopez reported. To this day, it is the NAD-RID NIC. All of this information is clearly available on RID’s website, which Ms. Lopez had indicated she had thoroughly researched. She also could have secured accurate information by, again, going to NAD and seeking to interview their leadership.
Sixth, in Ms. Lopez’s effort to show the costs of maintaining RID certification, she inaccurately reported RID’s role in providing continuing education. RID has approved more than 100 entities nationwide to provide continuing education options to RID certified interpreters. These entities provided more than 10,000 continuing education opportunities in FY15 alone. RID itself offers a small fraction of all of the continuing education that is provided throughout the nation on a yearly basis. The mandate for continuing education is one that the profession itself, members of RID, enacted as a means to demonstrate investment to one’s skills, abilities, and knowledge. Again, this is not unique to the sign language interpreting profession. Professional development is a mandated requirement for other professions, such as teachers, social workers, etc. We ask again, why does the reporter assume sign language interpreting should be different from other professions in that regard?
Ms. Lopez spent nearly an hour interviewing RID’s Interim Executive Director, Anna Witter-Merithew. During the first part of this interview, Anna explained the history of RID and its non-profit activities, including maintenance of a directory of nationally qualified interpreters. Anna provided Ms. Lopez with information about other nationally recognized tests/assessments, including the BEI and the EIPA. Did Ms. Lopez explore the impact of the EIPA within the context of this story since she focused on interpreters working in classroom settings, the specialized setting for which the EIPA assesses? Were attempts made to meet state requirements through the EIPA by the interpreters for whom she interviewed? If so, what was the outcome? This is a vital part of the report that is missing as well.
Finally, we understand the frustration of interpreters like Ms. Vance because of the level of commitment and investment she and others feel they have dedicated toward their path as practicing sign language interpreters. Unfortunately, Ms. Lopez’s report is a disservice to Ms. Vance, other interpreters facing similar situations, long-time interpreters, and ultimately, the Deaf community because she didn’t get the focus of the story correct. At the heart of the story is the Deaf community; the individuals who are impacted by interpreting services which are not meeting their needs. Again, that should be the story.
As indicated in the interview that Anna conducted with Ms. Lopez, RID is equally concerned about the low pass rate. RID has and will continue to assess the administration and design of its tests to ensure that standards of validity and reliability are met. And, as part of our ongoing test maintenance process, as new studies and data collection result in the need for test revisions, we will continue to make those to the fullest extent possible.
However, our concern cannot stop there, as the test is only one part of the formula for identifying a qualified workforce. RID has to also look at the interpreting system as a whole; how interpreters are prepared; how they acquire competence in American Sign Language, both expressively and receptively; how they are inducted into the field; the level of supervision they are receiving; the readiness they possess to meet national standards; among other factors. This is the context that surrounds Ms. Vance’s experience and others who are not meeting the national standard set by the NAD and RID.
RID is disappointed to have our investment of time and resources provided to Ms. Lopez reduced to such a misrepresentation of the true issues and facts. We trust you will promptly see that the inaccuracies and misinformation your station reported through her report are corrected.
Sr. Director of Programs and Services