Some refugees who have resettled in Kentucky are facing a challenge to their independence. Many refugees aren’t able to get their driver’s licenses because they don’t have access to an interpreter.
Court approved interpreters are allowed to assist refugees with the written portion of the test, but cannot be in the car to help during the driving exam.
Maria Koerner with The Kentucky Office of Refugees says this presents a challenge for refugees who have limited conversational English skills, especially if they’re nervous. She said state law currently prohibits a third person from being in the vehicle during the driving portion of the test.
“Having someone in the car to provide language access would make the instructor more safe because they’re understanding their directions,” Koerner said. “So often this is someone who might have conversational English but if it’s not your first language and you’re a little nervous for taking your test you might not understand the instructions the person is asking you to do.”
Koerner said a program that would certify more interpreters is in the pilot phase right now, and is being offered on a limited basis. She said the increasing number of languages spoken by refugees in Kentucky makes it difficult to provide enough court approved interpreters who can assist them.