RD483 - Study of the Need to Regulate Sign Language Interpreters – November 1, 2019

Executive Summary:

The Board for Professional and Occupational Regulation (Board) considered a petition for regulation submitted by the Virginia Department for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (VDDHH) Advisory Board. VDDHH representatives summarized their reasons for requesting the study to determine the need to regulate sign language interpreters, stating that the legal requirement to provide a qualified interpreter under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is rather ambiguous, making it possible for individuals with minimal or no credentials to present themselves as qualified interpreters, posing great risk to the health and well-being of the Deaf and hard of hearing. Pursuant to § 54.1-310.1 of the Code of Virginia (Code), the following report provides an analysis of whether the public interest warrants the regulation of ASL interpreters as proposed in the VDDHH request for a study. Based on evidence obtained during the study, the level of risk of harm to the public appears to be moderately high. The public does not appear to be adequately protected at the present time without a higher level of regulation for interpreters than the existing VDDHH registry. A more robust registry may be sufficient to address the risk of harm, or a certification program administered by VDDHH may be warranted. The General Assembly may also wish to codify certain prohibited acts by sign language interpreters, such as willful improper or dishonest conduct, and establish penalties for violations.