Utah State U. Settles Lawsuit Over Sign-Language Interpreters

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Tue Jun 5 14:41:06 UTC 2007

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Utah State U. Settles Lawsuit Over Sign-Language Interpreters

By KARIN FISCHER <karin.fischer at chronicle.com>

Utah State University has settled a federal disability-rights lawsuit by
agreeing to provide students who are deaf with adequate sign-language
interpreters and other services. The federal lawsuit, filed in May 2006, was
brought by a dozen current and former students, who accused Utah State of
violating the Americans With Disabilities Act. It accused the university of
denying deaf students equal access to educational opportunities, failing to
provide services in a timely manner, and discriminating against those
students. As part of the settlement agreement -- which was completed in late
April but made public on Monday -- Utah State agreed to hire one interpreter
for every two deaf students enrolled in classes full time. Three full-time
interpreters already have been hired, said Tim Vitale, assistant director
for public relations and marketing at the university.

Other interpreters will be hired on a part-basis, Mr. Vitale said. Fifteen
deaf students attended Utah State, in Logan, during the most recent academic
year. Students had complained that they could not enroll in needed classes
because of a lack of interpreters and that some interpreters' sign-language
skills were insufficient for more-complicated academic work, said Dale H.
Boam, the plaintiffs' lawyer. As a result, some students had delayed
graduation in order to complete necessary course work, while others
transferred to another institution. As part of the agreement, if a student
is assigned an interpreter with a lower level of certification, the student
would have to consent in writing, Mr. Boam said. Note takers could not be
substituted for interpreters.

The settlement also would streamline the grievance process and would give
students the option of scheduling regular meetings with staff members at the
university's Disability Resource Center to better coordinate services. "The
students are pleased, and they are watchful," Mr. Boam said. The agreement
also includes a financial award of $18,000, or $1,500 for each of the 12
plaintiffs, Mr. Vitale said. The settlement ends protracted negotiations
between students and officials at Utah State, who had said they struggled to
recruit and hire qualified interpreters. The Utah State Board of Regents,
the state's higher-education governing body, also was named as a defendant
in the lawsuit and is part of the settlement.


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