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September 24, 2005

"THE CSD JOURNEY" series - It All Started With Interpreters

From: CSD - Sep 24, 2005

This series of articles highlights Communication Service for the Deaf's expansion from a one-person operation to the largest deaf-run organization in the world, employing over 3,200 employees in 42 offices.

It All Started With Interpreters
The 1970s brought in an era of change in Deaf America. Consumer demand for equal communication access led to the birth of CSD as an interpreter referral service. This came about as a new federal law, the "Rehabilitation Act of 1973," went into effect. Section 504 of this law required employers or organizations that receive financial assistance from any federal department or agency to provide appropriate accommodation for people with disabilities.

CSD opened its doors on Nov. 1, 1975 with a $39,000 grant from the South Dakota Social Services Department (Title XX grant). The South Dakota School for the Deaf provided a 25 percent subsidy, and $7,000 was donated from the South Dakota Association of the Deaf (SDAD). Because there was no registry of interpreters, CSD started a massive campaign to compile a comprehensive list of interpreters in South Dakota. Word spread quickly throughout the region. Before long, interpreters had registered from Sioux Falls, Rapid City, Watertown, Yankton, Aberdeen and Huron. The list was distributed to the Sioux Falls police and fire departments, hospitals and hotels.

Over the course of 30 years, CSD's presence in the sign language interpreting field has grown immensely. CSD created the first sign language interpreting training program in South Dakota, then added mentoring and internships. In the early 1990s, when the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) fueled awareness and demand for interpreters, CSD began offering interpreting services through branch offices in eight states. In 1999, CSD introduced technology to interpreting when the first video remote interpreting trials were held. This was followed by Internet-based video interpreting services and the birth of video relay service (VRS). Suddenly, communication access in the deaf and hard of hearing community had taken on a whole new meaning.

"With video relay, the interpreter is now available in seconds, rather than minutes or hours," said Ann Munce, an interpreter with CSD for 26 years, "This has provided deaf individuals with faster access to services and has also made it easier for interpreters, as they have an option to avoid driving in unfavorable weather conditions across a largely rural state."

Today, CSD is actively involved in the licensure and certification of interpreters nationwide. They do this by working closely with the interpreter certification agency, the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID).

Long-time partners, community leaders and friends will join CEO Benjamin J. Soukup and CSD officers and employees at the Sioux Falls Convention Center in South Dakota on Friday, Oct. 28 to commemorate CSD's 30th anniversary. A brand new book, "Seeing A Need," will be launched during the banquet. Event information is available at

Watch For Upcoming Articles: "The Road To Relay – TRS." "Who Has The Fastest Connection?" "Camp Lakodia – A Year-Round Deaf-Friendly Retreat," "CSD National Programs" and "Equipment Distribution Programs."