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Michelle Efird
2648 Three Willows Ct.
Richmond, VA 23294
August 2, 2001

Ronald L. Lanier, Director
Department for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Ratcliffe Building, Suite 203
1602 Rolling Hills Drive
Richmond, VA 23229

Dear Director Lanier,

In accordance with Virginia’s Regulatory Process, I am writing about the amendments to the Regulations Governing Interpreter Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, 22VAC20-30. I request that the regulatory process be suspended for an additional 30 days to solicit additional public comment with an open meeting. I have read the summary of the changes on Virginia’s Regulatory Town Hall website, and I believe these changes will be detrimental to both the deaf and hard of hearing community and the qualified interpreters who serve that community.

In the "Purpose" section in the summary document, VDDHH states the first goal of the amendments is "To provide consumer access to a formal grievance procedure for situations involving violations of the Code of Ethics by Virginia Quality Assurance Screened Interpreters." This change is unnecessary, since Virginia Code already provides for the judicial system to handle ethics violations by qualified interpreters.

§ 8.01-44.3. Divulgence of communications by qualified interpreters and communications assistants.

If the content of any communication which is facilitated for compensation in the professional capacity of a qualified interpreter, as defined in § 63.1-85.4:1, or in the professional capacity of any communications assistant employed by the statewide dual party relay service established under Article 5 (§ 56-484.4 et seq.) of Chapter 15 of Title 56, is divulged by such interpreter or assistant, any such party to the communication aggrieved by such divulgence may recover from such interpreter or assistant the greater of (i) actual damages sustained, together with costs and reasonable attorneys' fees, or (ii) $100. No such recovery shall be permitted if the interpreter or assistant and the parties to the communication have agreed that the interpreter or assistant may divulge the content of the communication.

I feel that handling judicial matters is not allowed for in §63.1-85.4, which states the powers and duties of the Department, and that to adopt 22VAC20-30-140 oversteps the Department’s authority.

The third goal of the amendments, as stated in the summary document, is "To provide a cost-effective option for Virginia Quality Assurance Screening Candidates to select the extent of their participation in the screening process based on their area of skill and to establish fees for screening within the regulation." However, the "Substance" section of the summary document clearly states that the fee will increase from $80 for both sections of the test to $120. An increase of 50% is not cost-effective. While I understand that this is the first fee increase since 1993, I believe that this is excessive. Furthermore, interpreting and transliterating are skills that belong together. Qualified interpreters need both, and the deaf and hard of hearing community is not well served by separating these skills.

The fourth goal of the amendments is "To differentiate the skill level of the VQAS Level 1 by reclassifying this as a ‘Novice Interpreter Designation’. This is in response to consumer concerns about the inclusion of interpreters with VQAS Level 1 in the Directory of Qualified Interpreters. Code language defines a qualified interpreter as one who has a current screening level awarded by VQAS. Current regulations define the minimum requirement for a VQAS level as a score of 50%."

First, I would question which consumers had concerns? This is not mentioned in any the "Public Comment" section of the summary. Secondly, I am opposed to interpreters being stripped of their credentials. This change means that VQAS Level 1 interpreters will no longer be able to work for state agencies, which eliminates their employment in the public sector. Being unlisted in the Directory limits their employability in the private sector as well. According to VDDHH figures of VQAS Level Counts as of July 24, 2001, there are 113 Level 1 transliterating credentials and 175 Level 1 interpreting credentials. This accounts for 42% of the VQAS current credentials. These interpreters have earned their credentials, and do not deserve such treatment. With a shortage of qualified interpreters in the state, the deaf and hard of hearing community is ill served by losing interpreters, especially in less populated areas of the state. I also question the "score of 50%" wording. VQAS testing has three categories in each of its two sections: Voice to Sign, Interactive, and Sign to Voice. Only the lowest score prevails: the other two scores are thrown out, rather than averaged in with the lowest score. While a qualified interpreter should have minimum competency in each area, he should also have his strengths considered when determining whether he has earned a level and inclusion in the Directory. I do not believe that a Level 1 interpreter only understand 50% of what is signed to him, or can only sign 50% of what someone says. If VQAS considered strengths, as well as weaknesses, I believe any "consumer concerns" would be relieved.

In conclusion, I believe that the regulation changes will not serve the deaf and hard of hearing community and their interpreters. Please suspend the regulatory process for an additional 30 days and conduct an open meeting where these concerns can be discussed.

Sincerely,

Michelle Efird

Cc: The Honorable James S. Gilmore, III
Lieutenant Governor Hager
Delegate John M. O’Bannon, III
Senator Walter A. Stosch

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