ASL interpreters in city council meetings

Posted at 7:15 PM, Nov 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-01 21:15:32-04

BOISE, Idaho — The opportunity to engage in your own city government is a right, not a privilege, which is why the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 made it illegal to deny a person's request to provide ASL interpreters at events like city council meetings.

But while this may have been law for the past 30 years, this important service has gone largely underutilized in Boise recently.

For the first time in at least a decade, ASL interpreters were on hand at Tuesday's regular Boise City Council meeting.

"I thought we need to make an extra effort to make sure that we're making it possible for those folks to come and participate in the public hearing," said City Council member Lisa Sánchez, City of Boise.

Tuesday's meeting featured a hearing on proposed rules and regulations on application fees charged by landlords in Boise.

"That also affects people with disabilities, and deaf people, both," said Raymond Lockary, Boise citizen.

Lockary, who is able to hear with a cochlear implant, asked city council to provide Tuesday's interpreters.

"And I said, 'You know what, let me check on that!'" said Sánchez.

Steven Snow, executive director of the Idaho Council for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, said ideally, ASL interpreters would be there every week, as it would encourage civic engagement.

"Deaf people pay taxes. They attend public schools. They really live in various walks of life in Idaho, so those discussions and those decisions that are happening at the Boise City Council meetings will impact us," said Snow.

And with growth comes diversity. With roughly 1200 people moving to Ada County per month, Snow says the deaf community in Boise is growing "exponentially." Sánchez says hiring the ASL interpreters requires taxpayer dollars which is why they're only provided when requested.

"It's kind of a chicken and an egg thing, ya know-- perhaps more people would come to city council meetings if they knew those services were provided. And we will continue to provide those services, if more people come to city council meetings," said Sánchez.

She said on her end, she'll try to spread more awareness on agenda items like Tuesday's that relate to everyone.

Council member Sánchez says anybody looking to get more civically involved with accessability barriers of any kind, to please reach out to her email at with any comments concerns requests or questions.