Deaf Community Heard at Special Meeting

Opponents of a controversial state hire get a private audience with those who made the hire.

To serve as a sign language interpreter you really need to know sign language well.

Some are convinced a woman hired by the state as an interpreter isn't up to the task.

Call it damage control. Call it a search for common ground. Call it what you willbut the meeting called by State Work Force Director Bill Walker was his opportunity to explain an unpopular hiring decision to prominent members of Arkansas' deaf community.

A legislative committee hearing last week failed to quell their concerns over the state's hiring of a sign language interpreter who lacks national certification.

Many in the deaf community question the ability of the woman hired, including state representative John Burris of Harrison who asked this question at the hearing.

"Could she be standing at the front of the room signing for the people in the audience the way these people are (referring to two interpreters)?" asked Rep. Burris.

"Yes," replied Mr. Walker.

"O.K. Thank you," answered Burris.

You heard Director Walker's answerand heard how many of the deaf people in the audience that day disagreed with Mr. Walker's assessment.

What you won't hear is how Director Walker tried to share his support and confidence in this hire in his Monday meeting with some of those same people.

We were not invited.

The meeting lasted over three hoursand those in attendance left without offering public comment afterwards.

But after visiting with one person in attendance by phone it is clear the same person with the same qualifications will remain in the same position.

So what will change?

Possibly the job description that allowed this hire to happen in the first place.

And Mr. Walker says he will write an open letter to the deaf community this week.

Air date: July 23rd, 2012

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