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City sends message loud and clear on interpreting

Ben Godar

A move by the city to hire its own sign-language interpreters instead

of contracting for such services is intended to save money, but

officials also hope it will improve services for the

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hearing-impaired.

The City Council recently authorized establishing a sign-language

interpreter position because of the increasing need for such services

in Park, Recreation and Community Services classes.

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Presently, the city hires interpreters as needed from Lifesigns, a

program of the Greater Los Angeles Council on Deafness. While the

work done by those interpreters has been exemplary, Park, Recreation

and Community Services Director Mike Flad said the hourly rate of

$100 was too costly.

“In some cases, we may charge only $50 for a cooking class and

then it costs $100 to serve some of those folks,” he said.

Interpreters hired by the city will be paid $20 per hour, and Flad

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said outside help may still be contracted if scheduling and

circumstances warrant. While the interpreters will work primarily

with recreation programs, Flad said they could be assigned to other

city functions, such as translating at a City Council meeting.

Although saving money was the major reason for the change, Flad

hopes interpreters more familiar with the city will be a better

resource for hearing- impaired individuals.

“It definitely has the potential to improve service,” he said.

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“There’s real value in having someone who knows where all the parks

are and what all our services are.”

The Burbank Unified School District employs its own interpreters

for cost effectiveness. Sandra Gaynon, the district’s director of

special education and psychological services, said their familiarity

with the schools also makes them a better option than contracted

translators. She also said working with the same interpreter is

beneficial to students, particularly if there is a lot of technical

information or complex terms.

“If something is very technical, a change in interpreters might be

detrimental,” Gaynon said. “The best situation is not to change.”


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