RIC Establishes the State’s First Public Health & Equity Sign Language Interpreter Program

Sign language
Rhode Island College Impact

As a public, comprehensive college with a long tradition of educating and training the state’s workforce, Rhode Island College is uniquely positioned to partner with the state’s health-care industry in developing, educating and training the health-care workforce of tomorrow.

The Deaf community faces unique barriers in health-care systems, including the lack of culturally and linguistically competent health-care practitioners, resulting in significant health disparities.

To reduce these disparities, Rhode Island College has partnered with the Rhode Island Commission on the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and the Rhode Island Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf to create the state’s first interpreting program.

Marie Lynch
Professor Marie Lynch

Led by RIC Professor of Special Education Marie Lynch, this grant-funded program is designed to increase the number of qualified sign language interpreters in health-care settings. It is titled the Rhode Island College Public Health & Equity Sign Language Interpreter Program.

“What makes our program unique," Lynch says, "is that it focuses not only on training current interpreters for work in public health-care settings such as hospitals, clinics and community-based settings, it trains them for work in mental and behavioral health settings, as well. It is also the first interpreting program of its kind to focus on social justice and equity.”

Interpreters who take part in this program will learn to recognize and address barriers to quality health care for Deaf individuals and social determinants of health such as the individual’s physical environment, education, employment, income, social support networks, gender, race, culture and language. Ultimately, current interpreters will become more competent in public health-care settings.

The program runs for nine months, beginning with a one-week, in-person summer residency on the RIC campus (Aug. 15-20). In September, program participants engage in online coursework. Upon completion of the program, they will each receive 12 CEUs from the Rhode Island Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf and a Certificate of Continuing Studies from Rhode Island College.

Two additional groups will go through the program over the next two years, with the grant ending in Dec. 2023. Historically underrepresented groups are encouraged to apply, such as Deaf interpreters, Black and Indigenous interpreters and Deaf-parented interpreters. Instruction will be conducted in American Sign Language, and bilingual and bicultural competency is a requisite.

To learn more, contact Marie Lynch, program director, at mlynch@ric.edu.