Troy University bringing sign language to forefront of education

Posted: Wednesday, 04 October 2007

TROY – Troy University officials today announced with Gov. Bob Riley a $250,000 grant from the Department of Education that will be used to implement a bachelor’s degree program aimed at increasing the number of interpreters for the deaf and hearing impaired.

Through the Interpreter Training Program, TROY will offer the state’s first bachelor of science degree in education with a comprehensive program in interpreting and eventually establish a Center on Deafness on its Troy Campus. In addition to the grant, the University will provide $250,000 in matching funds, and commitments from several other partners will help establish student scholarships. Partnering with the University and the Department of Education will be the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services and the Alabama Department of Mental Health.

In announcing the grant, Gov. Riley said TROY’s program will set a national standard.

“I want to congratulate Dr. Hawkins and Dr. Morton not only for recognizing a need but for stepping forward to fill that need,” Gov. Riley said. The Governor said that he was surprised to learn of the large number of deaf and hard-of-hearing Alabamians who have a need for interpretive services.

TROY Chancellor Dr. Jack Hawkins Jr., who headed the Alabama Institute for the Blind and Deaf for 10 years before taking over the reigns at the University, recognized the need for certified interpreters. He said that the University had become aware of the crisis facing the deaf community and was grateful for an opportunity to help address the situation.

“We want our interpreters to be prepared, we want our counselors to be prepared, and we also need other professionals who can go into the marketplace and elevate the quality of life for our citizens who happen to be deaf or hearing impaired. It doesn’t have to stop there, but that’s a good starting part,” Dr. Hawkins said.

Troy University announced the grant at a news conference in the Rosa Parks Library and Museum Auditorium at the Montgomery Campus. Dr. Joe Morton, Alabama Superintendent of Education, and Judith Gilliam of the Alabama Association for the Deaf also participated in the news conference.

In addition to training interpreters, the University plans to provide at least one course to high school students through the Governor’s ACCESS Program.

“We plan to reach into the public schools in Alabama early and begin offering sign language to students way before they come to Troy University. When they come to Troy University, we want the prepared, we want them oriented, we them ready to step into that classroom and make a difference. So Troy University is making a commitment not out of a desire to build a program, it’s out of a desire to serve the deaf people of Alabama and the agencies that are charged with serving those important consumers,” Dr. Hawkins said.

The program is desperately needed, said College of Education Dean Dr. Lance Tatum, because of the lack of interpreters available in Alabama and by a decision from the National Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) that will require the bachelor’s degree in order to gain national certification and licensure by 2012.

Tatum said that at TROY, students will complete the first two years in the general education curriculum and show proficiency in American Sign Language before being admitted to the program. Once in the program, students will take 20 courses in the curriculum focusing on interpreting skills and knowledge and an understanding of the deaf culture. Graduates will be required to achieve a 3.4 on the Educational Interpreter Performance Assessment, in addition to completing two internships. An externship program will help support graduates as they pursue national certification. The University’s proposal also includes the establishment of summer institutes to provide continuing education support to interpreters in Alabama.

“Troy University and the College of Education is dedicated to improving the availability of interpreters to those agencies and services in Alabama that support the deaf community,” he said.

Radio actualities may be downloaded at http://troy.edu/news/radios. A photo gallery of high-res photos for today’s announcement is available at http://www.troy.edu/news/photogallery/index.html.