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Friday, September 24, 2021

Limited number of ASL interepreters leads to UF PSU event cancellation

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Photo by Cecilie Johnsen on Unsplash

The lack of sign language interpreters in Gainesville meant a UF Pride Awareness Month event could not happen.

The Queer Deaf Experience, an event scheduled for Wednesday to discuss dating and discrimination in the queer deaf community, was canceled Tuesday when no American Sign Language interpreters could attend, said Andrew McAuley, the executive director of UF Pride Student Union’s Pride Awareness Month.

“It was important to raise awareness for the LGBTQ+ community and raise awareness for the lack of resources that deaf people have in America,” the 20-year-old UF microbiology and chemistry junior said.

McAuley said he placed a request for event interpreters April 12.

The UF Disability Resource Center, which handles interpreter requests, must be notified at least five business days in advance, McAuley said.

McAuley said he didn’t request earlier because he was instead focused on finding interpreters for the Pride Awareness Month drag show April 13. Interpreters could not attend that event either.

Certified interpreters could not be provided because of short notice and the limited number of interpreters in the area, said Gerry Altamirano, the director of the Disability Resource Center.

“We’re not here to micromanage students’ programming,” Altamirano said. “We’re here to serve as access consultants.”

The Disability Resource Center contracts interpreters from the Center for Independent Living of North Central Florida, Altamirano said. He estimated there are about six to eight interpreters in the center.

If interpreters can’t be found through the Center, Altamirano said the center has also worked with a St. Augustine-based interpreter.

No representative from the Center for Independent Living could be reached for comment for the next two weeks due to leadership on vacation, said Colette Gromoll, the organization’s business manager.

UF SG provides at least $10,000 for interpreters for SG funded organizations, Altamirano said.

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One interpreter can cost $140 an hour during 8-5 work hours and $160 on weekends and at night. Travel is also reimbursed.

Altamirano said the drag show and the Queer Deaf Experience events were the first times interpreters weren’t available since the Disability Resource Center started handling the requests for the 2018-19 school year. There have been 14 other requests this year, he said.

Altamirano said he will coordinate with the SG office to better educate organizations on accessibility.

“This speaks to the call for future ASL interpreters and students who may want to pursue that career to create access on campus and in our larger Gainesville community,” Altamirano said.

Photo by Cecilie Johnsen on Unsplash

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