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Deaf Students Threaten to Sue USU Over Claimed Lack of Interpreters

   |  Posted Nov 13th, 2005 @ 4:35pm


LOGAN, Utah (AP) -- Deaf students are threatening to sue Utah State University, claiming a lack of sign-language interpreters limits the classes they can take.

Utah State officials say they are trying to meet the needs of a dozen hearing-impaired students despite a statewide shortage of sign-language interpreters.

Utah has about 200 certified sign-language interpreters and could use another 400, according to the Utah Division of Services to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

University officials say they are working to recruit more sign-language interpreters, but senior Jonathan Roberts, 24, of Logan, is tired of excuses.

"They haven't done anything, and it's getting worse," said Roberts, among students who hired Sandy attorney Dale Boam and filed a notice of intent to sue the school.

Boam said Utah State was violating Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. He sent the university a letter demanding corrective action within 60 days.

"We want results, not more talk," he said.

The university employs five sign-language interpreters who are working toward certification, but students complain about their skills.

Utah State also employs seven people to transcribe lectures on the spot for hearing-impaired students, who can reply to instructors by typing questions or comments. But the students say that's no substitute for a skilled sign-language interpreter.

Utah State last month opened a search for a full-time certified sign-language interpreter, offering a $32,000 salary plus benefits.

"We're doing the best we can," said Diane Baum, director of Utah State's Disability Resource Center.

Pay for interpreters can range from around $9 to $20 per hour in the public and private sector, depending on education and skill, according to the Division of Services to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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