Interpreters in need for southern Nevada's deaf community

LAS VEGAS - For decades, people in Nevada’s deaf community say they've been abandoned and ignored by lawmakers despite a growing need.

One of the biggest needs is for interpreters.

Horace Smith drives around town in a van painted as an American flag. It's how he chose to translate his patriotism when he is unable to translate himself, Smith is deaf.

"Took me three months to work on this," Smith acknowledged. "I am an artist and have been for 35 years."

Smith’s voice belongs to Whitney Hobbs, a certified sign language interpreter. Hobbs is at the Deaf Centers of Nevada, or DCN, helping Smith interpret the big change in his life.

It's an example of something that is becoming harder to do and finding qualified sign language interpreters. Schools, doctors, courtrooms, and conventions need as many interpreters as possible.

"You could literally work all day, every day if you wanted to because there's so much work to be had,” Hobbs said.

Nevada has about 100 certified interpreters, but only 70 or so are actually working. Southern Nevada's deaf population is around 2,500 people.

The need is so great, interpreters often come from out of state to interpret for weeks at a time, according to officials.

"A lot of our deaf community go without interpreters, which is not fair for them,” Hobbs added. “They're not getting the access they need."

The shortage of interpreters is nothing new to Executive Director of DCN Kevin Carter. He says Carson City is now hearing the concern.

"For the last 30 years, the deaf community felt like the state of Nevada didn't care about them," Carter said. "We've seen for the first time the state saying, you know what, the deaf do matter."

In particular, Governor Sandoval is expected to approve a new four-year college program for sign language interpreters. The program can get students certified in Nevada and ideally, stay in the state.

 

 


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