Sign Language Interpreters for Rural School Districts

by Ben Beckstrom on December 19, 2011

Imagine the sound for your television suddenly went away and you couldn’t hear anything the people were saying. You could see what was going on but you had no idea if something was being said by a character off screen and you would have no way of knowing exactly what was happening. How well do you think you would follow the plot from your favorite show? How well do you think you would be able to follow a presidential debate? That is how hearing impaired people feel all the time, except it is not limited to a favorite program being muted.


Now imagine you are trying to learn math, science, or how to read with no auditory feedback. Can it be done? Absolutely. Can it be done easily if no one around you is able to communicate directly with you? No. That is why many school districts employ sign language interpreters for deaf and hearing impaired students from the time they enter the school until they graduate. These interpreters go with the student to their classes and help them communicate with the teachers, staff, and other students. But what about rural school districts with severely limited funds and access to qualified sign language interpreters? They face the added challenge of simply finding someone who is willing to work in a small community for typically far less compensation than is available in a more urban setting.


Video interpreting allows rural school districts to find qualified sign language interpreters for their students. Schools set up video conferencing software or devices in the classroom so interpreters can hear the teacher and see the child. With audio enabled the interpreter is able to voice questions for the child and interpret instructions and information in real time to the child. Rapidly evolving video technology means the devices needed for the online interpreter services are becoming smaller and more portable. It will soon be as easy for a child to have interpretive services available as it is to dial a phone or send a text message.


As the technology evolves the cost associated with it goes down. This means video interpreting will become even more affordable for rural school districts. The cost associated with this type of interpreting is already minimal compared to the cost of traditional interpreters because they are available as needed rather than being hired full time. This reduces salary costs as well as hidden costs such as health insurance and retirement benefits.


Sign language interpreters working via video is a good for the interpreter, the school district, and the student. The interpreter is given access to a greater number of clients and can work from the town they love. The school district is able to provide affordable services for their students and the children are able to receive the best education possible with the assistance of their interpreter.


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