Earlier this week, I was asked by a board member of NJRID to respond to this video by NJAD president, Michele Cline.
This was my response:
Her description of the contract is accurate and the Deaf community’s concerns are understandable. ASLI shares the same concerns.
In short, there are good agencies and bad agencies. Hopefully, the evaluation committee chooses good agencies over bad, even if their price is higher.
I can tell you about our agency’s perspective. By bidding on this contract, we are looking to administer it to the satisfaction of the Deaf community, the interpreting community, and the state. If there is an interpreter that a Deaf consumer prefers, wonderful, that actually makes our job easier.
From my experience bidding on eight RFPs in the past three years, I can tell you only an agency of a certain size will win. Applicants need a business license, financial statements, and experience in administering similar sized contracts. Individual interpreters, coalitions of interpreters, and small agencies are not going to be considered. This does not mean that local interpreters will lose work since there are only a limited number of certified interpreters in any area and a smart and ethical agency will try for “business as usual” for interpreters.
Deaf/Blind interpreting is actually not covered under this RFP. It can be offered as an optional service, but the winning agency does not need to provide tactile interpreters. Presumably, state agencies would continue to order those services as they have been.
The essential question of NJAD seems to be, how can they increase the chances that their needs are met, especially around requesting preferred interpreters and giving feedback about agency performance?
After February 28th, when bid are due, a group of people, the evaluation committee, will sit down with a pile of proposals and start reading them. They will score them based on a few “technical” factors, namely the agency’s experience, personnel, and ability. Then they’ll look at the prices the agencies submitted.
Based on the technical score and the price, the committee will award contracts, likely one or two for each of the three regions. My guess is it will take at least four months to award a contract.
The big question is: how much will the evaluation committee weigh the non-price factors? I don’t believe that NJ has established a method for evaluating the different factors or weighing those with the price.
That is where NJAD can influence the process. Since the evaluation criteria aren’t set in stone and the decisions are made by live people the community can express their concerns. Who is on the committee? No one knows yet, but it will be at least one person from Dept of Purchase and Property who issued the RFP plus, hopefully, representatives from the biggest users: DDHH (Deaf/HoH), DCF (Children), LWD (Voc Rehab) and DHMH (hospitals).
NJAD members can contact DDHH and other agencies and let them know what is important to you. That seems to be:
The bid demonstrates the ability and desire to match consumer requests with specific interpreters.
The bid includes a complaint system within the agency.
The final evaluation should weigh the quality of the technical proposal more heavily that the price.
Also, NJAD or individual Deaf can write letters of recommendation or support to agencies to include in their proposal.
Hopefully, the selection committee will value quality and ethics over price.