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October 7, 2005

Signing Out: Local deaf group doesn't support QU interpreter program

From: Quincy Herald Whig, IL - Oct 7, 2005

By Holly Wagner

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

Quincy University's new Interpreter Training Program (ITP) was introduced to the public Thursday afternoon at an open house marking Deaf Awareness Day, but members of Quincy's deaf community were conspicuously absent.

The four-year degree program carries 72 hours of courses. School officials said interest in such programs is growing as more states require American Sign Language for special ed teachers, and more schools are accepting ASL in fulfillment of foreign language requirements.

"This is the wave of the future," said Laura Covell, head of the QU program. "(Interpreters are) in high demand. If you think about everything you do on a daily basis, (most) deaf people would need an interpreter."

However, a letter sent to QU and the local media by Terri Cutforth, president of the Quincy Deaf Club, said the club "cannot support Quincy University's ITP."

"The great majority of ITPs have been established to meet a need ... and the establishment of a four-year ITP in Quincy seems impractical to us," the letter said. "To learn ASL fluently, it takes ... between seven and 10 year of full immersion ... one must socialize fully with the deaf community upon invitation and have adequate opportunities to develop language skills.

"The small number of deaf people in Quincy will be overwhelmed by the needs of the ITP students... It will also severely limit the students' interaction opportunities, resulting in less skilled and knowledgeable intepreters."

Reasons cited were the existence of programs at MacMurray College in Jacksonville and William Woods University in Fulton, Mo., both within a two-hour drive of Quincy; a community of fewer than 20 deaf people in Quincy; a lack of involvement of the local deaf community in establishing QU's program; and that certification requirements for the program are for minimal skills.

The Illinois School for the Deaf also is in Jacksonville, and the Quincy deaf community has strong ties with both ISD and MacMurray, and the deaf community there.

The QU program has seven students planning to major in the field, and all seven followed Covell and another instructor from MacMurray. Nine other students are taking some courses in the program's first semester.

Mary Pat Vahlkamp, director of public relations, said QU President Sister Margaret Feldner had seen the letter and "appreciates their concern. QU hopes that this program will serve the needs of people in Quincy and the surrounding area, and we are delighted with the turnout in support of (the) open house."

Covell said she, too, had seen the letter.

"I'm still looking forward to working with them," she said. "There's been a lot of misunderstanding, things not really in our control. We're taking it one step at a time. ... We're still going to be out there. The students will still be involved as much as they are allowed."

A visit to a doctor's office or a lawyer, watching a theater production and taking a class all might call for an interpreter. Professional ethics for conduct in such situations is part of QU's program, as is a class on deaf culture and the history of sign language.

"Once you learn the language and are fluid, interpretation becomes a struggle," Covell said. "You're listening to someone speaking, taking in that message, trying to change it into another language in your head and trying to produce it at the same time, all while continually listening."

Senior Ashli Kyies hopes to work in an educational setting, interpreting for deaf students and teachers. She started on that path in fourth grade, learning sign language from a hearing-impaired classmate with whom she has remained a close friend. Two other students in QU's program said they are focusing on interpreting in the areas of criminal justice and theater.

Covell said the Registry for Interpreters of the Deaf will no longer certify interpreters without the bachelor of arts degree after 2012.

Contact Staff Writer Holly Wagner at (217) 221-3374 or

© 2005 The Quincy Herald Whig