Bridge Interpreter Referral Service available
About 17 percent of the population report some degree of hearing loss, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.
And under the Americans with Disabilities Act, communication must be accessible for individuals who are hard of hearing or deaf, which is where Keith Falzone and his wife, Denise, come in as co-owners of The Bridge Interpreter Referral Service, Inc. in Belen.
Falzone is a master-level interpreter in American Sign Language with the National Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf. According to Falzone, who has been interpreting ASL for 30 years, only 5 percent of all ASL interpreters are of master level.
He was introduced to sign language when he was in kindergarten in Ohio. He befriended a little girl in his class who was deaf.
He remembers that the other students “treated her like she had the plague” and excluded her from all activities because of her disability. Being a compassionate person from a young age, Falzone decided to make friends with the girl, and from kindergarten to third grade, they were best friends.
It was during those early years that he first learned ASL, a skill he pursued through high school until he graduated and enrolled in the Interpreter Training Program at the Columbus Technical Institute where he majored in Sign Language interpreting.
At the time of his graduation, in 1985, he was the program’s first male graduate. He said that even today there are not many men in the profession, and he thinks it may have to do with the intimate nature of the work.
“You have no control over the situation, you are the third party to all conversations,” he said. “If you’re doing your job right, even if you’re physically there, both parties will forget that you’re there. The interpreter fades out of the picture.”
And those conversations range from patients learning that they have cancer to recounting incidents of domestic violence and abuse.
Falzone and Denise, a wildlife biologist and a veterinary technician, live in Belen with their pound puppies, Lakota, Mudslide, Molly and Patty, along with their leopard gecko and fish.
They created The Bridge Interpreter Referral Service after getting married in 2000. They took over for a local interpreting business that served all of interior Alaska.
After spending six years in Alaska, the couple moved to Valencia County to be closer to Denise’s elderly mother.
In January, the couple realized a need for ASL interpreters in New Mexico and revived their business.
Falzone said they had 18 interpreters, from all over the state, “sign on right out of the gate,” including two that are trilingual in English, Spanish and ASL, and one that is trilingual in English, Navajo, and ASL.
Falzone said ASL is not universal, and sign language can very from country to country or region to region, even within the U.S., and Bridge offers at least 15 different styles to their clients.
A client can contact the referral service from anywhere in the state and the service will then locate an appropriate interpreter for the job. The company is one of two such services in New Mexico, and Falzone is confident they will soon become the largest in the state.
Falzone said, “People are suffering around the state without any services.”
Bridge is currently working to become a vendor to provide services for the federal government, in which case they would be able to serve people on a national level.
They are also interested in working with their Navajo interpreter, Tash Terry, to extend ASL interpreting services to the Navajo Nation.
For information, call Denise Falzone at 861-2101, or visit the website at www.theinterpreterbridge.com.