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March 13, 2004

Group to help deaf find sign language interpreters

From: The Express Times - Easton,PA,USA - Mar 13, 2004

The Express-Times

ALLENTOWN -- Imagine you have a disagreement with a merchant, but you can't hear anything.

About 5 percent of Lehigh Valley residents fit that scenario. They are unable to hear.

"With the deaf community, I mean obviously, communicating is really a barrier for them to be integrated into the community," said Laurie Geist of the Lehigh Valley Center for Independent Living.

"If your first barrier is communicating and knowing you are not going to be understood, that makes things critical."

The center, which is based in Allentown, is trying to change that.

Armed with a $100,000 state grant, it is formally launching a "Sign Language Interpreter Referral Services Program" with a news conference beginning 10 a.m. Wednesday at the center's headquarters at 435 Allentown Drive.

The program, which will be available 24 hours a day, is the first of its kind for the area, according to Geist, who is the center's development coordinator. It will serve the Lehigh Valley and parts of four other Pennsylvania counties.

The organization has about 30 sign language interpreters, according to Geist. All are certified by one or more organizations. They are skilled at helping the deaf in medical, legal, educational and other business situations.

"We can hopefully connect the person with the need with the most qualified (interpreter)," said Geist.

Fees will vary depending on the scope of the work and the time of day someone needs the service, said Christine Godleski, who is coordinator for the referral program.

For example, someone who needs an interpreter for a court proceeding would pay more than to have assistance at a doctor's visit, she said.

The agency is looking to obtain more money to assist people who cannot afford the cost, Geist added.

For more information, e-mail Telephone numbers for the program are 800-495-8245 or 610-770-9781, Ext. 21. The text telephone (TTY) number is 800-725-4614, and the fax number is 610-770-9801.

Warren County Office for Disabled Services offers information and referral services for disabled people, according to NORWESCAP, the Phillipsburg-based agency. Call 877-589-2253 for more information.

To reach Northwest New Jersey Community Action Program Inc., which keeps a clearinghouse of other possible services, call 908-454-4850 or 877-661-4357.

The money to launch the Lehigh Valley program comes from the Pennsylvania Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, Geist said. Anthony Salamone can be reached at 610-258-7171, Ext. 3603, or by e-mail at

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