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press release

The Utah Public Service Commission Awards Funding To Three Utah Education Institutions For Certified Sign Language Training/Certification Program

Salt Lake Community College, Utah Valley State College and the
Utah State Office of Rehabilitation Will Be First To Offer the New Program

Salt Lake City – January 5, 2006 –The Utah Public Service Commission has awarded funding contracts to Salt Lake Community College, the Utah State Office of Rehabilitation, and Utah Valley State College to provide American Sign Language (ASL) continuing education and training.  This funding will aid sign language interpreters in becoming certified and provide student scholarships and stipends. These three organizations were awarded funding following a request for proposal process managed by the State of Utah Purchasing Department and will be available in January 2006.

The ASL Interpreter Program resulted from an amendment to House Bill 145, “Amendments to Hearing and Speech Impaired Telecommunications Program,” passed during the 2005 General Session of the Legislature. This legislation expanded the permitted use of the telephone surcharge for services to the deaf, hard of hearing, and speech disabled to include contracting with programs that train persons to serve as certified sign language interpreters. Representative Brent H. Goodfellow and Senator Howard A. Stephenson sponsored the amendment.

With the funding, the three organizations will institute an ASL training and certification program and establish an Interpreter Lab to train individuals to become sign language interpreters. Following their training and certification, individuals will provide interpreter services between hearing individuals and people who are deaf for educational or vocational purposes, in addition to supporting video relay service. With video relay, an ASL interpreter facilitates a call between a hearing person and a deaf person over the Internet.

Students enrolling in the Sign Language Interpreter Program will sign a letter of obligation to stay and work in the state of Utah as an interpreter for the length of time equivalent to the length of training received due to the provision of stipends and scholarships.

“The need for qualified, certified sign language interpreters has significantly increased over the past few years,” said Julie Orchard, Commission spokesperson.  “This program is a tremendous opportunity to tap the excellent teaching resources available in our colleges and rehabilitation organizations. It will develop a strong, deep resource of qualified interpreters to help ensure a high level of effective communication with the deaf.”   
 
More than 220,000 deaf or hard of hearing individuals reside in Utah. The Public Service Commission continually strives to provide a service for those who have difficulty with hearing and/or speaking over the telephone to communicate with each other and with the hearing community. In addition to the training/certification program, the Public Service Commission also oversees the Relay Utah program. Relay Utah, the name for the State’s Telecommunication Relay Service, provides hearing assistive phones and telecommunications “relay” services to connect people who are deaf, hard of hearing, and speech disabled using a text telephone, or TTY, to individuals using a standard telephone. Relay Utah was established in 1988 and was one of the first relay services to be established in the United States.

For more information regarding Relay Utah or telecommunication equipment, please visit www.relayutah.gov or call (801) 530-6769 (V/TTY).

Press Contacts:
Julie Orchard, Public Service Commission, jorchard@utah.gov, 801-530-6713
Stephanie Miller, PPBH Public Relations for Relay Utah, smiller@ppbh.com, 801-487-4800 x107