Aug. 20, 2009
By Jerry Kopel
Almost all of us use sign language. If you are not deaf or hard of
hearing you likely use sign language instead of swearing in anger. Just
the middle finger pointing up, or two fingers in the position of the
horns of a bull creates a message that everyone understands. Knuckles
knocking on another's knuckles is supposedly "cool."
There are 42,000 Colorado deaf among us plus 350,000 others hard of
hearing. Sign language is their language. Interpreters are the
communication link between hearing persons and deaf persons.
Since 1991, the interpreters have tried to obtain regulation for those
paid for their work. The most recent attempt is a Sunrise review from
January 2009,which is valid for the Dept. of Regulatory Agencies through
Next year may be the best possible for success because the Colorado
Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing is scheduled for repeal or
renewal in 2010 under the Sunset law. The commission would be a valuable
place to list on a monthly basis interpreters who qualify for pay.
Isn't there already regulation? We have 203 certified sign language
interpreters, mostly certified through service provided under the
federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which requires minimum
competency as being able to interpret both receptively and expressively,
putting words into signage and signage back into words.
The ADA requires Colorado to regulate interpreters through education
settings (kindergarten through 12th grade) and in the legal setting such
as court appearances through the Commission for the Deaf and Hard of
There are many subsets of interpreters with subtle differences in
approach. But those who are regulated nationally are through a Registry
of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) and given different qualifications of
competency by the National Association for the Deaf (NAD). In 2004 the
two groups produced a National Interpreter Certification test (NIC)
available for persons not already under RID and NAD.
How many uncertified interpreters are there in Colorado. According to
the Sunrise applicant, the Colorado Association for the Deaf, there are
500 uncertified. The applicant suggests those not certified be required
to pass NIC testing to obtain title protection. Such passage assures
According to DORA, beginning in July of 2009 candidates certification
have been required to have greater higher education degrees up to a
bachelor's degree being needed by applicants for ADA certification in
According to DORA, of seven states contiguous to Colorado five of them
Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Utah and now New Mexico regulate all
language interpreters. Arizona requires national RID certification in
order for the interpreter to be paid for services. Wyoming does not
Is ADA approval the answer? The cost to the state would be minor.
However it could possibly limit the number of interpreters while
potentially increasing the fees they would charge. Currently the written
and performance sections of the NIC Test costs $500.
Sometimes DORA has to provide "tough-love" to avoid having lulled
potential victims to incompetent practitioners. Something as small as
creating a monthly listing of interpreters who qualify for pay may
convince these interpreters not covered by ADA to choose that regulation
in order to be paid for their services.
* * *
As a legislator I spent a lot of time amending bills of others. But here
is one amendment I never offered until now:
Defrauding an innkeeper. If a "guest" walks out of a hotel or restaurant
without paying a bill of $520, he or she can be charged under CRS
12-4-102. But if he or she stops at the front desk and pays by
fraudulent check, he or she can be charged under CRS 18-5-205.
However the penalties are less severe as to misdemeanor under CRS
12-44-102 and the defendant has the right to seek to be charged under
the lesser statute for the same fraud of not paying the business the
Solution: Change the penalty in CRS 12-44-102 which presently reads: A
person who, with the intent to defraud, procures food or accommodations
from the public establishment without making payment therefore in
accordance with his or her agreement with the public establishment, is
guilty of a misdemeanor if the total amount due under the agreement is
$1,000 or less.
Upon conviction (he or she) shall be punished by a fine of not more than
$500 or by imprisonment (in the county jail) for not more than 90 days,
or by both such fine and imprisonment.
Under CRS 18-5-205, paying by a check you know is fraudulent is a Class
2 misdemeanor if the sum of less than $500 and a Class One misdemeanor
if done for $500 or more but less then $1,000.
Class One misdemeanor penalty is a minimum of 6 months in prison or a
$500 fine or both, and possibly up to 18 months in jail or a $5000 fine,
or both. Class 2 misdemeanor is the less of three months in prison or a
$250 fine or both, or possibly up to 12 months in jail or $1,000 fine,
If paid by fraudulent check of $1,000 or more, it is a Class 6 felony
under CRS 18-5-205. Walking out the door under CRS 12-44-102 if the bill
is MORE than $1,000 is a Class 6 felony.
Suggestion is also for drafting to review similar type penalties to see
how many clash with CRS 18-5-205.
(Jerry Kopel served 22 years in the Colorado