Kansas needs more sign language interpreters

Columnist

The State of Kansas needs more interpreters, and Wichita State needs to try harder to help meet that demand.

Students have to leave Kansas to go to another state to major in interpreting in part because WSU doesn’t offer two-year or four-programs for interpreters — but there are a number of people working to make this major happen. Some students decided to attend WSU hoping the interpreting program would be in place for them, but plans have been stalled and the interpreting major has yet to be finalized.

The issue is that students are coming to WSU hoping to become an interpreter only to find the program isn’t offered, therefore they have to pursue a degree in another field or transfer to a university with an interpreting program.

Emily Harris, a WSU senior, is no longer pursuing a certification in interpreting.

“I moved to Wichita to become an interpreter, until I found out they don’t offer everything they previously advertised on their website,” she said. “I decided to go into the field of communications instead and be able to use American Sign Language as a foreign language credit.”

The WSU website no longer lists a potential program for an interpreting major.

In every American Sign Language class several students wish to be interpreters.

The sign language students belong to the ASL Club, and they have been trying to get help from faculty members and WSU board members for at least four years.

Little to nothing has been done. Board members seem to have been too focused on expanding the campus. Millions of dollars has been added to modernize the school but nothing is being done to further the education and skillset of interpreters.

The former American Sign Language Club president drafted a petition two yearsa go to get the interpreter program at WSU. She sent it to the Student Government Association, which did not pass it.

No reason was given.

“Every time I speak to Kathy Stewart, assistant director of disability services, she talks about the need for more interpreters in Wichita,” Harris said.

Interpreting is quintessential worldwide and the need continues to increase.

There will always be deaf individuals who will need interpreters. Just like future teachers and doctors are trained to help people, interpreters need to be properly trained for the benefit of the deaf.

Interpreters work in the classroom from kindergarten to post-graduate school. They interpret in court and through specialized phone calls. They’re even found on campus for theatre productions and college graduation.

Something needs to be done to help them. We can’t keep putting this off.

Creating awareness for the need of the interpreting program is the first, and most important, step.