GULFPORT -- An interpreter for the hearing impaired is now signing at regular meetings of the Gulfport City Council.
The service started with Tuesday's council meeting. Council president Rusty Walker estimated the cost at $100 to $200 a meeting, depending on how long the session lasts. He said a federal grant is covering most of the expense.
"Gulfport has a very large deaf community and we've just not been able to allow them to participate in our meetings," Walker said. "We thought that this is a way we could give them that equal participation, that equal access."
For the first meeting, two interpreters from the de l'Epee Deaf Center in Gulfport provided the service. Jill R. Hagler and Sarah Francis switched out on signing duties. They started with the opening prayer and pledge of allegiance.
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Walker said nobody had complained about the lack of interpreting services at the meeting, but residents have told him they don't attend because they are unable to hear and there would be no point.
Interpreters will be used at all regular meetings, and can be scheduled on request for special meetings, provided there is time.