FOTWS: MS Department of Rehabilitation Services


MADISON, Miss. (WJTV) – Communication is critical in the age of Covid-19. The Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services is dedicated to making sure that all Mississippians have access to the latest information. That’s just one of the many services they provide.
You know his face. You’ve seen his hands. Greg Goldman is the most recognizable sign language interpreter in Mississippi.

Ben Wagenknecht is the Director of the Office on Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Mississippi.

He explains, “Greg is highly skilled because of his experience and of course of his family. His father is deaf and his mother is an interpreter herself.”

But Greg is just one of about 200 interpreters registered with the Mississippi Office on Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

Ben adds, “Some tests are very hard. It’s a variety of tests.” 

Greg is part of a team. Denee Smith is usually right off camera prompting him along. It’s an interpreter’s job to make sure every Mississippian has equal access to information.

Ben signs, “That’s why we must have quality, skilled interpreters, (with) especially receptive and expression skills. That’s very important, and if they don’t have those skills, they shouldn’t get the certification.”

And that’s just one of the many important roles that fall under the umbrella of the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services.

MDRS Executive Director Chris Howard explains, “Maybe you have an individual who has worked for 25 years and started losing their hearing, losing their sight and now they’re like, what’s my next step in life.”

A visit to  can point them in the right direction.

For Mississippians facing even more significant challenges that require personal care or even home modifications, MDRS is always ready to help.

Chris adds, “Even though we are under a shelter in place, individuals still have disabilities, they still need those services, so it’s so important that our counselors and our examiners are out there performing these jobs.”

It alll adds up to about 100,000 Mississippians assisted each year. State and federal tax dollars make it all possible. Consider it money well spent.

  Ben says there is a nationwide need for more sign language interpreters. Socializing with folks in the deaf community is good way to get started. 12 News is Focused on Those Who Serve.

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