Amid shortage, TJC offers ASL Skills Certificate to get interpreters into community

She explained that those in the deaf or hard-of-hearing community prefer face-to-face interactions, as technology isn’t always reliable.
Published: Sep. 14, 2022 at 9:58 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 14, 2022 at 10:36 PM CDT

TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - In East Texas there are about 90,000 people in the deaf and hard-of-hearing community. There are only about 1,500 interpreters in the state to assist these individuals.

“We are in a crisis. We do have a severe shortage of interpreters, and that happened before COVID. With COVID, things went remote so a lot of interpreters went remote with companies that provide remote services,” said TJC’s Interpreter Training Program Coordinator and professor Kim Hunt.

She explained that those in the deaf or hard-of-hearing community prefer face-to-face interactions, as technology isn’t always reliable.

TJC offers an Associate of Applied Science in Sign Language.

“We need interpreters that can go out and do any kind of assignment, and then we need specialty interpreters for legal, medical, mental health, special education settings, and so forth,” Hunt said.

TJC’s program has a goal of getting more certified interpreters into the community. Students can join at any semester and still be on track to complete the two-year degree.

“It is a skill-based program, so when they come in, they’ll learn all the parts of the state test, they’ll be prepared with pre-assessments, post-assessments. We also include all the elements of the language,” Hunt said.

Scott Whitney is a deaf education studies professor at TJC and said he’s involved in the Tyler Deaf and Hard of Hearing Center in Tyler, and they’ve noticed the shortage.

“People will ask frequently, ‘I need an interpreter, I want an interpreter,’ and we’ve not been able to provide that to all of them. It provides some sticky situations. We need more,” Whitney said.

Whitney said that having an interpreter can help reduce anxiety in situations where conversations are going on among the hearing community. He has some recommendations.

“First of all, learn our language: American Sign Language. That opens up so many possibilities to communicate,” he said. “Communication barriers mean that there’s just that disconnect. Also, I would say go to deaf events, spend time with us.”

Their department is having a deaf awareness event Wednesday Sept. 21, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. in the Pirtle Technology Building, Room 109 on TJC’s Campus. (1031 S Palmer Ave, Tyler, TX 75701).

It’s for anyone curious about learning more about interactions those who are deaf may have in the hearing world.