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Legislature Approves Funding For Sign Language Interpretation At The Capitol

Oregon Legislature

Upcoming legislative sessions in Oregon will be more accessible for the deaf and hard-of-hearing.


While the legislature does provide automated captioning for its hearings and floor sessions, "it uses so many incorrect words that you just can’t make sense of it," said Jake Cornett, the executive director of Disability Rights Oregon.


“Bad captioning like this, and inadequate sign language interpretation, it really cuts part of our society out of the legislative process," he said.


The group pushed lawmakers to fund sign language interpretation, instead of relying on the current computerized captions. The legislature agreed, and included just over a million dollars as part of the budget bill that will fund legislative operations for the next two years.

“This funding really opens the legislative doors to members of the deaf, deaf-blind and hard of hearing communities in Oregon," said Cornett. "And we’re all going to be stronger for it in the legislative process as a result.” 

Cornett is hoping the new service is ready in time for a planned special session on redistricting this fall.

Some of the money will toward hiring a sign language coordinator at the Capitol. The bulk of the funding will likely be used to contract with a remote interpretation service, which would be projected on a screen in hearing rooms as well as being viewable in real time on the legislative website. 

The bill that includes funding for sign language interpretation is awaiting a decision from Gov. Kate Brown about whether or not to sign it.


Chris Lehman has been reporting on Oregon issues since 2006. He joined the KLCC news department in December, 2018. Chris was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and graduated from Temple University with a degree in journalism. His public broadcasting career includes stops in Louisiana and Illinois. Chris has filed for national programs including “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.”
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