Couple’s business aids deaf, hearing-impaired customers
When Cheryl and Jesse Bailey first met, Cheryl’s knowledge of sign language was just enough to communicate with her future husband.
Twenty years later the couple is married, and they share ownership of San Marcos Interpreting Service for the Deaf.
Jesse, who is fully deaf and comes from a fully deaf family, said Cheryl’s skills have vastly improved since they first met.
“Obviously she’s very good now because she’s certified and owns a sign language business,” Jesse signed to Cheryl, who interpreted.
The home-based business provides communication assistance to the deaf and hearing-impaired in San Marcos, Kyle, Buda, Lockhart, Luling, Seguin and other surrounding areas.
The Baileys bought the business in 2009. Cheryl handles the day-to-day operations from their home while Jesse works as an athletic specialist at Texas School for the Deaf in Austin.
Although Jesse insists the business is a partnership in name only, he was the catalyst that got Cheryl involved in deaf culture.
Jesse and Cheryl were working for a vocational rehabilitation office in Austin when they met and became friends. With his help, she began picking up a little sign language. The husband-wife team laughs when they look back at that time.
“She signed a little bit when we first met, and I was kind of thinking, ‘Oh she knows a little bit of sign, that’s kind of cool,’ ” Jesse said. “I thought she was a little bit cute, too.”
Jesse said it took a while for Cheryl to pick up on the expressiveness required for effective communication with sign language, but owning the business and getting licensed by the state has helped her learn how to sign effectively.
According to data from the 2010 American Community Survey, the deaf and hearing-impaired population in Texas is 808,186. Within Hays County, that number is 5,218 people. Caldwell and Guadalupe counties have hearing-impaired populations of 1,479 and 5,640, respectively, according to the survey.
“My business stays really, really busy, and we’re expanding a lot every year,” Cheryl said. “My customer base has grown every year since I bought the business.”
To assist deaf customers who have prescheduled and emergency appointments, Cheryl uses interpreters from a call list of 50 contract workers. She said hospitals and schools make up the bulk of her business.
“It’s a hard industry because there are a lot of misconceptions about the service and why it’s necessary,” Cheryl said.
The Americans With Disabilities Act compels hospitals and public services to provide “auxiliary aids and services” to deliver aural information to deaf or hearing-impaired consumers.
The act does not require health care professionals to provide interpreters in every instance, and Bailey said this can cause frustration for the doctors, patients and interpreters.
“It’s hard to imagine that a deaf person would be expected to walk into a doctor’s office and just sit down and not be able to communicate about what’s happening with their health,” she said. “Imagine yourself going into your doctor’s office and the doctor comes in and starts speaking Spanish about your health, and you’re going, ‘What?’”
Elizabeth Pastrano, a representative from Central Texas Medical Center in San Marcos, said the hospital provides interpreters from San Marcos Interpreting Service for the Deaf for its deaf patients.
Pastrano said the hospital’s doctors and nurses make every effort to use the deaf person’s preferred communication method, which can include interpreters, written communication or other methods.
Cheryl said San Marcos Interpreting Service for the Deaf can provide service 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Rates vary depending on the type of assignment, time of assignment and certification level of the interpreter.
Jesse and Cheryl agreed that things have improved since the days when interpreters were hard to come by and television was never captioned.
Cheryl said the businesses and health care providers that her customers frequent make every effort to provide communication services.
“Anywhere you would go and need to communicate with anyone, a deaf person would have to go, too,” she said. “So when they go, the only difference between the deaf person going and you going is you can communicate just fine with the person there, but the deaf person needs help doing that.”
San Marcos Interpreting Service for the Deaf, 754-8047, sanmarcosinterpreting.com