- Associated Press - Friday, March 1, 2019

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - For the past 11 years the deaf executive director of the Idaho Council for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing has had to find a sign-language interpreter for meetings with lawmakers. The process can take days, sometimes forcing Steven Snow to miss important meetings on urgent issues.

The Idaho Press reports that now, for the first time, legislative budget-writers have approved funding so the council can hire a full-time interpreter.

Executive director Steven Snow did not ask for the funding, but mentioned the issue in response to questions from members of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee last month.

Snow said finding an interpreter for meetings takes at least three days and typically a week or more. That has meant that he cannot always be involved in meetings with lawmakers and other stakeholders, and even when urgent issues arise, he is not always able to testify or offer expertise on the matter.

Snow said when he started in the position 11 years ago, he talked with the governor about the agency’s interpreting needs, but because of financial constraints it was not included in that year’s budget request. The same thing happened the following year, and after several years, Snow stopped asking.

“Every meeting I attend requires communication access. So there are meetings I should be at and would love to go to participate, but I’m not able to. Other people are able to have hallway conversations and develop partnerships and ideas and really strengthen those collaborative opportunities, and I don’t have that same opportunity,” he said.

Members of the budget-writing committee were stunned by the situation. On Thursday, Idaho Falls Republican Wendy Horman proposed a budget for next year that includes roughly $90,000 for a full-time interpreter.

“This budget brings to mind I think one of the most lingering memories that will stay with me from my service in the Legislature, and that was Director Snow’s comments that communication is not a political issue but a human issue,” Horman said. “His description of his inability to participate in hallway conversations, to fully participate in meetings particularly if they’re on short notice, and not being able to schedule an interpreter struck deep.”

The committee passed it unanimously.


Information from: Idaho Press, http://www.idahopress.com

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