A look at the people behind the numbers in area business:


Title: Director of sign language services

Age: 31

Melissa Mittelstaedt is leading a new, in-house American Sign Language (ASL) division at Garden & Associates, an interpretation and translation company in St. Louis Park.

The sign language service will focus primarily on the health care sector.

Mittelstaedt is recruiting interpreters and mentoring pre-certified ASL interpreters. Garden is seeking approvals that will make it one of the only organizations to bill interpretation services directly to insurance companies.

One of her goals, Mittelstaedt said, is to offer a "sought-after level of service."

"Garden is well known for high-quality services in the spoken language realm," Mittelstaedt said. "I would like to bring that same level into the signing community, meaning the interpreters and the deaf and hard of hearing community at large."

Garden, founded in 1979, has offered sign language services for the past nine years but previously did so through a subcontractor, Mittelstaedt said.

An ASL certified interpreter, Mittelstaedt previously was manager of interpreter service relations in Minnesota for a large professional services firm.

She has degrees in business administration from the University of Northern Iowa and in sign language interpretation and transliteration from St. Paul College.

Q: What's the significance of Garden bringing ASL interpreting services in-house?

A: Traditionally, ASL services are provided separately from spoken language services. We're bringing that all together in-house and are going to be the first full-service language provider in the state of Minnesota.

Q: What misconceptions do you deal with as a sign language interpreter?

A: One of them is, 'Oh, isn't that sweet, you're here to help the deaf individual.' Our response to that is that it's all about a right to access. A deaf individual, they don't look at an interpreter as someone that's there to help them. They look at them as 'this is my tool to access.' Everyone has a right to that.

Q: How will Garden's sign language services benefit providers and users in the health care setting?

A: All the behind-the-scenes work is going to be done by Garden, securing the sign language interpreters and making sure that we find the best fit for the patient. That way it's going to be a well-rounded package that everyone's going to feel good about.

Todd Nelson