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Law Could Require Sign Language Interpreters For Deaf School Children

October 25, 1986

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) _ School districts in Michigan could be required to provide sign-language interpreters for deaf children under revised special-education rules which take effect in July, officials said Friday.

The rules, approved by the State Board of Education in March, can require school districts to provide qualified interpreters for deaf children, who would be singled out for the service by a screening committee.

The screening committee, made up of a teacher, parent and hearing specialist, could order sign-language interpreters in the classroom.

The rules are the first in the nation to establish qualifications for sign- language interpreters, requiring that they meet specific state and national standards, a deaf expert said.

But educators for the deaf warned Friday the regulation will be difficult to implement because of a shortage of qualified interpreters and a lack of state and federal money to help pay the signers.

″There are not enough teachers trained in sign language available today,″ said Jeanette Frederickson, a deaf educator from Minnesota.

Currently, signers are used mostly in special-education classes and do not have to meet state qualifications.

Michigan has 5,200 hearing-impaired school-age children, including roughly 500 who are completely deaf, the experts said.

David Updegraff, superintendent for the Michigan School for the Deaf, told reporters he supports the new special-education rules but said he has doubts about the number of students who would benefit by it.

″My professional opinion is most profoundly deaf people need to be taught with other profoundly deaf children ... for them to get the most out of the education process,″ Updegraff said.

The new rules require that sign-language interpreters be able to translate about 75 percent of the material others can hear. Roughly two-thirds of the state’s signers now meet this standard, said Tane Akamatsu, a special education professor at Michigan State University.

The deaf educators discussed the new rules at the Michigan Society for Deaf Children’s third annual workshop at Michigan State University.

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