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November 7, 2004

Interpreter service fills language gaps

From: Danville Advocate, KY - Nov 7, 2004

Staff Writer

DANVILLE - Jennifer Paycheck never understood why Danville, a community that is home to a considerable number of the deaf and hard of hearing, has never had any type of interpreting organization.

"Because of KSD (Kentucky School for the Deaf), there are many deaf people who come here to go to school, then end up staying and raising a family. They are a significant part of our community," Paycheck said.

A growing Hispanic community, along with others who have second-language needs, alerted Paycheck to the fact that interpreting services were lacking.

She decided to change that by starting Central Kentucky Interpreter Referral, Inc., a non-profit service that gives companies, public offices and other organizations access to interpreters.

The service, for now, is operated out of Paycheck's home.

Paycheck taught at Kentucky School for the Deaf for eight years, and was hearing about the difficulties of the deaf community has firsthand.

Paycheck has a bachelor's degree in health education and a masters in education with a deaf education endorsement. She is certified to teach biology and health and is a certified interpreter.

She has 46 sub-contractors at her fingertips; 23 interpreting American Sign Language, and 13 who interpret Spanish, all licensed and certified.

"It's a law ... " she adds, "that any interpreter that receives any money for their services must be licensed. We offer a variance of skill levels, depending on what the business or organization needs, but they are certified."

Helping organizations comply with federal law

Some of Paycheck's business is helping organizations comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The act sets forth standards requiring some organizations and businesses to provide an interpreter if one is requested by the deaf or hard of hearing. It's the responsibility of a public entity to provide the service unless it can be proven that doing so causes an undo hardship.

"We're really organizing the services for local businesses and any other offices," Paycheck said. "In the past, the business would have a list of people that others had referred them to who could interpret. It would be hit or miss. They would call each person to check availability. Often, certain interpreters weren't available at specific times. And they would just have to go down the list."

The "certain times" that Paycheck mentions may be 2 a.m., for instance, due to a call from a fire department, emergency room, or even a jail.

Paycheck has organized a group of people, listed by skill level and availability, that businesses will have access to by calling her.

"Some may not be available at late hours, but we will always have someone who will be on-call 24 hours and able to go out at any given time. And we will respond within a 30-minute time frame, depending on the commute."

Working as far away as Pikeville

Speaking of the commute, Paycheck said her interpreters have worked as far away as London, Louisville and Pikeville.

Paycheck also offers individual assistance services for newcomers at no charge.

"For instance, if a Spanish speaking person has just relocated here and is trying to get settled, an apartment rental application may look to them like what one in German would look to you and me," she says.

Central Kentucky Interpreter Referral recently helped a deaf woman who relocated to Danville from Arkansas by picking her up at the bus stop and helping her find her way around the town for the first time.

Priscilla Brock started sub-contracting for Paychecks service about three weeks ago.

"My whole family is deaf," Brock says, referring to her three brothers, two sisters and both parents.

"I've seen first-hand how they suffer from this day after day, and it's really hard to find interpreters for certain instances."

The Spanish speaking community has been reaching out in its own way to get help.

Many Hispanics need interpreter

A recent survey in Fayette County found nearly 56 percent of Hispanics need an interpreter at medical appointments, but only about 17 percent said that their health care providers always had interpreters available.

"We not only do interpreting for health care providers, but for factories, prisons, jails, public events - we've even interpreted folk music for the crowd at a festival in Danville, as well as plays in the area. "

Since the skill levels of her interpreters vary, the hourly rates do as well. The normal pay range for an interpreter runs $22-$23 an hour. The referral service charges an additional $6 per hour.

"I really hope that we can grow, and work out of an actual location some day," Paycheck said. "It would be nice to see businesses and other organizations taking advantage of this service we offer and helping bridge that communication gap we have with so many in our community."

For more information about Central Kentucky Interpreter Referral, contact Paycheck at (859) 236-9888.

The service currently provides interpreters for American Sign Language, Spanish (spoken and written). German (spoken and written), and Russian (spoken).

Copyright The Advocate-Messenger 2004