Riverland in Need of Sign Language Interpreters

Posted at: 01/15/2014 7:01 PM
Updated at: 01/15/2014 7:02 PM
By: Jenna Lohse

Sign language interpreter at Riverland Community College's Owatonna Campus
Sign language interpreter at Riverland Community College's Owatonna Campus

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- Graduating college can be a difficult journey, but imagine doing it without the ability to hear or verbally communicate with your professors and peers. This is the reality for a select number of students at Riverland Community College. To make it even more difficult, there is a shortage of interpreters to help out.

A few clicks on a keyboard to type an email is second nature for most of us, but most of us aren't like Jason and Christie Rayner either.

The married couple is attending Riverland Community College in Owatonna.   Jason for social work and Christie for web development. The unique thing about these students is they can't hear their teachers, classmates, or a reporter for that matter.  Our only way of talking, was by typing.

That’s why this pair relies on sign language interpreters, a rare commodity these days. With the new semester starting this week, they, along with a select number of other students are in need of a hearing aide.         

The Rayner's said without the interpreter they feel lost in the classroom and it sometimes affects their class attendance. Jason says most of the deaf communities are dealing this need, because many interpreters are securing jobs with video relay services.

Riverland is piloting an internet based service, where the student can see a real time interpreter on an iPad, but Jason and Christie say it has its limitations. They feel the loss of relationships and the ability to talk with peers before and after class without a live interpreter.

With both on the final stretch of their degree, they plan to work harder to achieve the education they can call their own.

Faculty overseeing student success at Riverland Community College say they've even brought interpreters in from the Twin Cities to fill part time positions. If you or someone you know may be interested in helping with these services you can contact Sharon Stiehm with Riverland Disability Services at 507-433-0646 or sharon.stiehm@riverland.edu