Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $1,000,000)
The Problem: While research has shown that Deaf children and adults experience harm at rates higher than their hearing counterparts, due to a variety of cultural and communication barriers, they are less likely to receive services and other support that increases survivors’ safety, healing and justice. One of the most significant and enduring barriers Deaf survivors face when reaching out for help is a lack of qualified sign language interpretation. Highly qualified trauma-informed American Sign Language interpreters are critical for Deaf survivors to effectively access advocacy services, shelter-based services, support groups, and medical and legal services. Inexperienced or improperly assigned interpreters can cause significant barriers and harm. Yet, there is a dearth of qualified sign language interpreters in victim services for a number of reasons. In some areas of the country, there simply aren’t any sign language interpreters available, or if there are, interpreters aren’t qualified. Some victim service providers simply don’t have the resources to pay for interpreters, or, if they do, they do not know how to find and secure qualified interpreters.
The Solution: The Vera Institute of Justice (Vera) is requesting $1 million to increase access to victim services to Deaf victims by providing free sign language interpretation services through virtual technology. Through this project, Vera will address this critical and enduring gap in access to victim services for Deaf victims of crime through the use of technology. Interpretation services will be provided remotely using safe and secure technology by specially-trained, trauma-informed interpreters, allowing victim service providers to interact directly and effectively with Deaf survivors in their community and to provide Deaf survivors with both short and long-term assistance. Vera will provide remote interpretation services Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Eastern time (6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Pacific time) and weekends, as requested. Non-profit victim service providers in the United States will be eligible to receive sign language interpretation services through this project. The project will prioritize organizations in rural and remote communities; those in communities with no sign language interpreters or interpreters qualified to work in victim services; and those who lack financial resources to pay for interpretation. In addition to providing qualified, trauma-informed virtual interpreting services, Vera will work to increase the capacity of victim service providers to effectively secure and work with sign language interpreters.
This project addresses three United States Department of Justice priority areas: 1.) the promotion of civil rights; 2.) access to justice, and 3.) support to crime victims.