Deaf community wants sign language interpreters to remain independent

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The Deaf and Hard of Hearing Service Center in Northeast Fresno may be closed, but leaders are flooding state lawmakers with letters asking them to keep their interpreters independent, after the passage of Assembly Bill Five.

"We need interpreters who are working as independent contractors so they are available any time of the day so if there's an emergency, a birth, a death or an illness, if someone is in the hospital, they need an independent contractor to be able to provide the communication access and services," said Michelle Bronson, DHHSC Director.

The DHHSC is one of several non-profit centers in the state of California which provides resources to those who are deaf and hard of hearing.

Bronson briefly took off her mask to explain how AB5 has created issues for the community and now lawmakers are trying to clarify concerns with AB 2257.

Recently, the senate financial committee looked at the issue. Interpreters believe it could reduce the number of sign language interpreters.

"It would affect us greatly. It would mean all our certified interpreters have to create their own business, which is an LLC," said Kimberly Glenn, interpreter.

Bronson says she has 26 employees and financially they could not afford hiring all of the interpreters they use for various needs as full time staff.

While she says video relay services and interpreting help with connecting people, it does not always provide total communication.

She hopes lawmakers will hear their concerns and act.

"We here in California want to show them how things are handled in California will affect what happens here across the nation because they will follow suit," Bronson said.

Bronson estimates approximately ten percent of the population is deaf or hard of hearing, according to a 1990 census

AB 2257 is headed to the appropriations committee.

Many are hoping to be able to make changes to protect communication access for the deaf and hard of hearing community.
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