LANSING, MI — Continued shortages of qualified interpreters and funding mean Michigan’s deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing residents lack access to proper communication and education, and many are unclear of their rights under state law, advocates say.
Michigan has a shortage of accessible mental health services, education, employment and legal services for these residents, said Todd Morrison, director of the Michigan Deaf Association.
About a million Michigan residents experience hearing loss, and about 90,000 identify as deaf. The majority consider themselves hard of hearing or later-deafened — meaning they were deafened after adolescence, having grown up as part of the hearing population, Morrison said.
But the state has only about 500 registered and certified hearing and sign language interpreters to assist this population. And 90 percent of those interpreters are self-employed, which means they can choose not to respond to emergency calls or work nights or weekends, Morrison said.
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