Deaf councilwoman files complaint over lack of interpreters

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by DREW MIKKELSEN / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on July 14, 2014 at 5:09 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jul 15 at 7:06 PM

MONTESANO, Wash. -- Marisa Salzer wants to be treated like every other Montesano city council member, but she needs help.

"I am profoundly deaf," said Salzer. "If I take my hearing aids out I can't hear anything."

Salzer has asked the state's Human Rights Commission to investigate whether the city is doing enough to support the needs of her disability.

She is able to read lips, but during city council meetings she needs interpreters to make sure she doesn't miss anything.

When she took office last December, Salzer said, she was told there would be interpreters at every meeting.

Salzer said that has not been the case.

She explained that when meetings run longer than an hour, interpreters have to take breaks.

Salzer said she didn't feel comfortable voting on an issue because she wasn't able to understand what was being said without an interpreter.

"I was very sad, disappointed," said Salzer, "Because I knew I could do the job. I just want to be capable of doing the job."

Montesano Mayor Ken Estes said he has apologized to Salzer and will make sure there are two interpreters at every council meeting starting this month.

"I want her to have reasonable accommodations," said Estes, "I'm working hard to do it."

Salzer said she's "optimistic" things will change, but she still wants the state to investigate.

A spokesperson for the Human Rights Commission said it will be about a month before commission members decide if Salzer's claims are investigated.

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