Should we trust our government?
The State of Michigan is telling the MI Deaf Community to trust them and to wait and see what is in the Deaf Persons’ Interpreter Act’s Amended proposed rules and regulations. And we are being asked to support these rules and regulations, without knowing what exactly is in it.
Diana McKittrick, the co-chair of the Rules and Regulations Committee (and former MI Deaf Assoc. president) wrote this in the MI Deaf Association group page, regarding concerns about the rules and regulations:
“Sounds like it. We don’t have a clue as to what the submitted rules look like. They are keeping DODHH on short leash while the upper management is changing the documents ( I am guessing) without our knowledge. We might be supporting a set of rules that have been changed and not what we want. Time for everyone to start calling JCAR , your elected reps as well as Mich dept of civil rights. Mike Zelly is chair of mDCR”
Diana McKittrick is not the only one who’s been making these kinds of claims. The MI Deaf Association made similar allegations. (See their vlog on their concerns and allegations: https://www.facebook.com/groups/173219933284/permalink/10151473433633285/ )
And now a MDA member (with assistance from someone else other than me) is raising concerns about the VRI portion in the rules and regulations, which could very possibly conflict with the ADA, which supersedes state laws. We don’t know for sure if this is truly the case, since we don’t know what’s been altered in the latest version of the rules and regulations. But we’re being told by the government, ‘Wait and see.’ This is the same government who was alerted by the National Association of the Deaf, in its public comment last March, for the very same concerns regarding potential conflicts with federal law.
The NAD wrote under the sub-heading ‘Federal Law Supremacy’:
“The regulations cite the supremacy of federal law in a couple of places, but the NAD recommends clarifying this important point. Rule 393.5051(3) states that “[i]f there is a conflict between these rules and a local, state, or federal law, the interpreter shall comply with the law.” This is important but is almost undermined by Rule 393.5055(11) which states that “VRI interpreters must comply with all federal regulations established by the [United States] [D]epartment of [J]ustice under Title III of the Americans With Disability [sic] Act, as amended, and published on September 15, 2010, section 36.303 (f).”
The implication is that only VRI interpreters must comply with this provision of the Americans with Disabilities Act. It would strengthen the regulations if it stated that all interpreters in Michigan must comply with all federal regulations established by the Department of Justice under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and specifically cite section 36.104 which defines the phrase “qualified interpreter.”
Throughout the regulations, there is the common refrain of “if effective communication is achieved.” However, such caveats are not consistent in the regulations, and therefore it becomes necessary to state unequivocally that “effective communication” as it is defined by the ADA is paramount and overrides any assumption that an interpreter is qualified for a specific assignment if the deaf or hard of hearing individual does not have such effective communication. The NAD strongly recommends that a statement be made in the regulations that any interpreter who has the appropriate certificate or level must nevertheless remove himself or herself if it becomes clear that effective communication is not being achieved, or calls in a CDI if necessary to achieve effective communication.
Moreover, the ADA emphasizes “impartiality in the definition of “qualified interpreter” and this needs to be reflected throughout the regulations. For example, Rule 393.5051(4) states as follows: “A qualified interpreter may interpret for a proceeding for a co-worker or peer during organizational meetings, workshops, seminars, union discussions, when not a participant in the meeting, but shall not be compelled to interpret for a co-worker or peer during a disciplinary meeting, conflict resolution, or employment dispute. A neutral qualified interpreter shall be used at the discretion of the D/DB/HH person.” The problematic phrase in this particular rule is that the qualified interpreter “shall not be compelled” to interpret, when it should be prohibited outright rather than be subject to whether the interpreter wants to do it. It is recognized in the rule that the interpreter must be neutral or impartial, yet there is no outright prohibition as there should be.”
Have these issues raised by the NAD, been resolved in the latest version of the rules and regulations? We do not know. We’re being told, ‘Wait and see.’ We’re basically being told to trust our government.
Trust our government? Trust our government, after allegations from credible individuals that the MI Deaf Community’s concerns are not being heard? After concerns from numerous individuals about possible conflicts with federal law?
But we’re being told that we still should support rules and regulations that we do not know exactly says because, well, having a law is better than having no law, and we should trust our government.
I would like for everyone to recall that similar remarks were made about the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law. And we all know the consequences of that were, and what happened to ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ in the end.
I do have to say that one thing that the MI Deaf Association said, amidst all of this confusion and lack of information, is absolutely right. The eyes of the national Deaf Community is on the State of Michigan.