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National "seal of approval" for OCC's sign language interpreting program


Michigan now has a nationally-accredited training program for sign language interpreters.

Oakland Community College’s program received accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Interpreter Education this month.

OCC offers a three-year associate degree in American Sign Language interpretation. The program graduates around 20 interpreters each year.

It’s the first program in Michigan to receive that accreditation.

Program coordinator Kelly Flores called it a “wonderful seal of approval.”

“It’s very important for the community and our students, because it gives them some assurance that we meet national standards,” Flores said.

The designation comes at a time when Michigan is facing a serious shortage of ASL interpreters, with about three times the number of open positions as there are qualified people to fill them.

Flores said OCC and the state’s five other interpreter programs will work hard to fill those slots, but the problem is likely to linger.

“It’s not an easy dilemma to address, because sign language interpreting, or any kind of interpreting work between two languages, is a very complex task,” Flores said. “It’s a very difficult job, and it really is not for everybody.”

Beyond that, Flores said working with the deaf and hard of hearing community requires connecting and committing to a distinct, tight-knit culture.

“We work with a community of people who don’t consider themselves to be persons with disabilities, as much as they consider themselves to be a linguistic and cultural minority,” she said. 

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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