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Meeting held by citizens interested in issues affecting the deaf, hard of hearing, and qualified interpreters.

Location: Shoney’s at Broad and Glenside, Richmond, Virginia

Date/Time: June 30, 2001 7:20p.m.

Attendees: Pat O’Berry, Kelly Gardner, Jessie Carson, Donna Zimmerman, Joy Zimmerman, Bradford Zimmerman, Janet Hakey, Michelle Efird, Nancy McConnell

Note taker: Michelle Efird

Interpreter: Donna Zimmerman

Agenda:

  1. Proposed changes by VDDHH (Virginia Department for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing) to Regulations Governing Interpreter Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
  2. Status of NAD certification in the state of Virginia in comparison to VQAS and RID certifications

Handout 1: Proposed Action on Regulations

Pat O’Berry stated her opposition to the proposed changes. She believes that these changes are the first steps leading to state licensure for interpreters, which she also opposes. People who wish to be interpreters in other states where licensure is required have to pay fees up to $300/year which may prohibit some people from being able to practice. The regulations become final tomorrow, with a 30 day comment period. Pat O’Berry is asking for people to write VDDHH with their concerns about these changes and forward a copy of the letter to their elected representatives.

Handout 2: Pat’s letter to the Director of VDDHH

Pat’s concerns:

  1. There is no definition given for the terms "raw scores" or "segment composite"
  2. The VQAS tests will be separated into two categories, transliterating and interpreting, and the total cost to take both tests will increase from $80 to $120. Pat feels the price increase is too high.
  3. Section G of 22VAC20-30-100 explains the raters and rating process, which provides for one deaf and one hearing rater. Pat believes only two anonymous raters opens the door to bias. Pat has tried to get the names of her raters released to her under the Freedom of Information act and has been unsuccessful. She is taking the agency to court in order to find this information.
  4. VQAS Level I Interpreters will be changed to "Novice Interpreters". VDDHH states that Level I interpreters only understand 50% of what is signed to them. This is not the case. The VQAS test has three sections, and the lowest score prevails. The other two scores are discarded, rather than taking an average of three sections. This leads to the interpreter’s score reflecting their weakest area rather than the total of their skills. The VQAS Credential that an interpreter has earned should not be stripped from them. It will affect that interpreter’s employability. They will no longer be qualified to work for the state or be listed in the VDDHH Directory of Qualified Interpreters. DOE issues will be addressed in a future meeting. Pat’s agency, Sign Language Interpreting Services, Ltd., will lose half of its interpreters. Teachers will have fewer interpreters available for deaf children in the classroom.
  5. The grievance procedure allows any person to fill out a complaint with an online form that already exists. Consequences are severe, such as loss of credentials. There is already a law in place to handle ethics violations. There is no need for the agency to handle matters that belong in the judicial system.

Pat offers the use of her letter to any concerned citizens. She is asking for an additional 30 day review period, for 60 days total, and another open meeting to discuss the impact of these issues.

Handout 3: Economic Impact Analysis from the Virginia Department of Planning and Budget

This is the VDPB’s response to the regulation changes. Pat believes the economic impact has been underestimated in this report, possibly due to the VDPB receiving incorrect information from VDDHH. The replacement of VQAS Level I with "Novice Interpreter" designation is in response to "consumer concerns". Pat questions this. Which consumers have concerns? VDPB states that this "may negatively affect some interpreters". However it then uses figures provided to it by the VDDHH stating "Of the 173 VQAS interpreters with current screening levels, 50 hold a Level I as their highest screening level". There are actually 687 VQAS credentials, of which 288 are Level I. (see Handout 4) Clearly more than 50 people in the state will be affected. Furthermore "DDHH states that it has not used Level I interpreters to provide services for the state agencies it contracts with since September 1997." Pat believes this is an admission of discrimination.

Under the section "Businesses and Entities Affected", VDPB states that no localities are particularly affected. Pat questions this, noting that rural areas of Virginia have fewer interpreters, and therefore will suffer a shortage of qualified interpreters if Level I’s lose their ability to work for the state. Regarding impact on employment, VDPB admits "there may be some reduction in employment of these individuals. However this impact is not expected to be large…" Pat states that every interpreting business in the state will be affected. Currently there is a law that states that any state agency must get their interpreters from VDDHH rather than private agencies. Pat states this is a conflict of interest, runs counter to Virginia’s right to work laws. Several members of the meeting expressed the opinion that VDDHH is acting as a monopoly.

VDPB says there will be no significant affect on value of private property. Pat believes credentials are a citizen’s private property and should not be removed.

Handout 4: VQAS Level Counts, July 24, 2001

This handout shows the number of credentials currently held at each level in both transliteration and interpreting. There are no Level 4’s (the highest level) in the state. Pat questions a testing system where no one in the state of Virginia has been able to achieve the highest level. According to this chart, 42% of the VQAS credentials in the state will be thrown out.

Handout 5: Information sent to VQAS applicants

The regulation says there are three raters for each of the two sections of the exam, transliteration and interpreting—one deaf, one hearing with no knowledge of sign language, and one qualified interpreter. According to this chart, it shows three raters giving three scores: Voice to sign, interactive, and sign to voice, for each of the two sections. This chart is incorrect and misleading.

Handout 6: Email from Bruce Sofinski to Laurie Malheiros dated January 27, 1999

Pat obtained this email from the Freedom of Information Act. In it Bruce states he recommended NAD levels be included on the pay chart in the past to avoid political pressure from VAD. Now he recommends that NAD levels be lowered on the pay chart because of differences in the testing between NAD and VQAS. He states "It could be considered to lower the NAD 4 block to the next-lower space… (but) that move is not recommended for much the same reason as the original recommendation…. This will likely appease any VAD members, should they notice the change."

Pat feels this letter is an insult to the deaf, since the NAD certification shows how deaf people rate an individual’s signing abilities. Pat questions Bruce Sofinski’s position with VDDHH at the time of this letter. She believes there is a conflict of interest. Also, by what right does he have access to an individuals private scores?

Handout 7: VQAS, NAD, and RID Evaluation Comparisons

This is a bar graph created by Pat showing how each certifying group breaks down their testing components.

Handout 8: Bar graph showing NAD point system

Handout 9: NAD Candidate Score Sheet

This handout shows an actual score sheet from a candidate who achieved NAD level 5. It breaks down the candidate’s scores into each area of competency, clearly showing strengths and weaknesses. It was received 3 days after the test, as opposed to VQAS which takes up to a year to release scores to the candidate.

Handouts 8 and 9 show the worth and value of NAD certification.

Handout 10: VQAS levels

Page one shows a graph demonstrating Bruce Sofinski’s assertion that each of 4 sections of the VQAS receives equal weight. His quote: "VQAS Transliterating Scores: Expressive / Interactive / Receptive / Written Assessment divided by 4 (to get an average score)"

In reality, the code of ethics is a prerequisite to taking the tests. Bruce S. uses faulty math to compare VQAS to NAD. Basic math error! Pat requests that concerned citizens send this evaluation to VDDHH and copy elected officials.

Handout 11: Pay chart

NAD level I not included

Handout 12: Virginia Quality Assurance Screening Levels

Handout 13: List of VQAS Raters

Pat and other members of the meeting noted many family members among the list of VQAS raters, as well as people with potential conflicts of interest. State employees must get permission from their superior in order to accept another job, and must avoid even the appearance of impropriety.

Handout 14: VDDHH Advisory Board Membership

This should be a board of 9 people, yet there are only 6. Pat believes interpreting businesses should be represented, as well as the NAD.

Handout 15: Adoption, Amendment and Repeal of Regulations in the state of Virginia

Pat includes this information in order to demonstrate how the VDDHH’s proposed regulatory changes may be blocked or repealed. She requests again that citizens write VDDHH and copy their elected officials in order to protest the change of regulation and request an additional 30 day public comment period along with another open meeting.

Handout 16: Internet Addresses

http://www.townhall.state.va.us/

http://state.va.us

http://www.vddhh.org/

Conclusion:

Everyone at the meeting agreed with Pat O’Berry that the proposed changes to the regulations are harmful to the interpreting industry as well as the deaf community, and with her assertion that NAD certification should receive more respect by the VDDHH.

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