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Sign-Language Certifier Accused Under ADA

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (CN) - A national registry of sign-language interpreters wrongly denied a Maryland man its highest level of certification simply because he is deaf, the man claims in Federal Court.

John Krpan, a professional American Sign Language interpreter, says he has the training and experience to interpret on behalf of deaf individuals regardless of their degree of ASL fluency.

To do his job, Krpan says he relies on hand gestures and "mime-type" displays. He can also use an interpreter, however, as accommodation to translate his ASL hand motions and depictions into spoken English, the April 8 complaint Krpran filed states.

Despite his experience and ability to do his job "with or without an accommodation," as defined under Americans with Disabilities Act, Krpan claims that the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf Inc. discriminates against deaf interpreters because its certification process includes an oral test that a deaf person cannot possibly complete.

Krpan asserts that, beyond the direct discriminatory nature of the requirement, he is also harmed by it because courts, governmental agencies and others require the defendant's National Interpreter Certification of any person applying to work as an interpreter.

"This requirement effectively communicates to prospective employers that the NIC holder is not deaf - that is, that the holder does not have a specific disability as the ADA defines the term," the complaint says.

Further, Krpan says, the oral test "causes the NIC test to measure the extent of the applicant's sensory skills, rather than the applicant's ability to interpret a deaf person's communication."

Compounding the situation, the defendant also requires interpreters not be deaf to secure its legal specialist certificate, according to the complaint.

These limitations of the certification programs exclude deaf people from the higher certification level, and communicates to prospective employers the interpreter's disability status, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Krpan alleges.

Krpan seeks a permanent injunction forbidding the defendant from using an applicant's disability status as a determining factor in either of its certification processes, and an injunction requiring it to permit Krpan to sit for the NIC examination with any accommodations he needs.

Krpan is represented by Lee B. Warren, of Craig, Cook & Francuzenko, of Fairfax, Va. Neither Warren nor an RID spokesperson were immediately available for comment.

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