frequently asked questions


When do I need to hire a Sign Language Interpreter?

Anytime you have someone who is Deaf, Deaf-Blind, or Hard of Hearing. The Americans with Disabilities (ADA) Act of 1990 states that both public and private agencies as well as employers must be accessible to all, regardless of disability. In many cases, the best way to ensure accessibility is to have a qualified Sign Language Interpreter.


Who is responsible for paying for an interpreter for a Deaf individual?

A company or organization is responsible for payment of interpreting services. This also includes non-profit organizations providing interpreters for public events. It is not the Deaf individual's responsibility to provide an interpreter when accessing services proved to the general public.


Can we write notes back and forth, or can the Deaf person read lips, instead of using an interpreter?

It is time consuming and still only allows for partial understanding for the Deaf since English is really their second language. Writing notes back and forth can hinder communication between those who are Deaf and hearing. A Deaf person can read and write, however, ASL is often their first language, and therefore written information may cause further confusion. Furthermore, a Deaf person who is an excellent lip reader will only get about 33% of what you are saying. For the average Deaf individual, that percentage is much lower.


If a person knows Sign Language can, they sign the information to a Deaf individual?

Interpreting is a very complex task that requires more than just knowing some Sign Language. The process of translating a message from one language to another requires a high level of proficiency in both languages. A co-worker, or someone who is responsible for other duties in your workplace, should not be put in the position of interpreting for a Deaf colleague or customer. Signing for their peer takes away from his/her ability to perform his/her assigned duties. Additionally, there is no guarantee of quality, accuracy, or confidentiality of information when not using a certified interpreter. In many cases, more damage has been done by a "signer" who is trying to help out, requiring more extensive interpreting time to repair the misunderstandings caused by not using an interpreter the first time.


What does it take to become an interpreter?

Interpreting is a complex task, requiring near-native skills in at least two languages as well as a deep knowledge of two cultures. A skilled interpreter's job is to provide the full content of an interaction between two or more people who do not share the same language. Most interpreters have studied American Sign Language for two to five years, plus one to three years of interpreter training. They are also required to continue expanding their skills on an annual basis.


What is considered a qualified interpreter?

Qualified interpreters hold certification and/or license in their respective state(s) and participate in continuing education programs. Interpreters are assigned only to those jobs for which he/she has been determined eligible. They must possess the ability to effectively communicate and interpret between ASL and English. All of our interpreters adhere to a strict code of professional ethics: 1.Interpreters/transliterators shall keep all assignment-related information strictly confidential. 2.Interpreters/transliterators shall render the message faithfully, always conveying the content and spirit of the speaker using language most readily understood by the person(s) they serve. 3. Interpreters/transliterators shall not counsel, advise or interject personal opinions. 4.Interpreters/transliterators shall accept assignments using discretion with regard to skill, setting and the consumers involved. 5.Interpreters/transliterators shall request compensation for services in a professional and judicious manner. 6.Interpreters/transliterators shall function in a manner appropriate to the situation. 7.Interpreters/transliterators shall strive to further their knowledge and skills. 8.Interpreters/transliterators shall strive to maintain high professional standards in compliance with the NAD/RID Code of Ethics.


Where can I go to learn ASL?

Many colleges, universities and continuing education centers offer courses in American Sign Language. Here is a partial list; more information is available on the internet: Johnson County Community College Florence Valley Community College William Woods University How long has American Sign Language (ASL) been around? ASL was first introduced in the Untied States in 1816 by Thomas Gallaudet, founder of the American School for the Deaf in Hartford, Connecticut.


Why do I need two interpreters for my meeting?

Interpreting is both a mental and physical process. Interpreting for an extended length of time can be exhausting. When an assignment is over one-two hours, two interpreters will be scheduled. The interpreters will relieve each other approximately every 20 minutes to ensure that the message is interpreted accurately for the full length of your assignment. Research has shown that an interpreters' ability to mentally process the message and interpret it accurately can diminish after 20 minutes. Most interpreters are usually unaware that his or her accuracy has decreased. Thus, misinformation is being unwittingly transmitted. Additionally, the rate of repetitive motion injuries among Sign Language interpreters is very high (some studies have shown over 60% of interpreters suffering some injuries that require medical treatment).


Provide good lighting for the interpreter.

If an interpreting situation requires darkening the room to view slides, videotapes, or films, auxiliary lighting such as a small lamp or spotlight is necessary so that the person who is deaf, hard of hearing, or deaf-blind can see the interpreter clearly. If auxiliary lighting is not available, check to see if room lights can be dimmed and still provide sufficient lighting to see the interpreter. If it cannot be arranged on site, inform the interpreter and suggest the interpreter bring a flashlight.


Schedule breaks during the meeting.

The interpreter and the consumers who are deaf, hard of hearing, or deaf-blind will need occasional breaks. These breaks allow time for the consumer to relieve eye strain caused by focusing on one position for a long period of time and for the interpreter to rest his or her hands and mind. Physical strain is also experienced by both the consumer who is deaf-blind and the tactile interpreter during prolonged interpreting situations, so frequent breaks should be scheduled for both.


Remember that the interpreter may be a few words behind the speaker.

Don't speak too slowly or too quickly. If necessary, the interpreter or consumer may ask the speaker or signer to slow down or repeat a word or sentence for clarification. Given the nature of the interpreting process, the best interpreters use time lag to absorb an entire thought from the first language before producing it in the other language. All consumers should allow enough time for the message to be received and transmitted, so that either party can ask questions or join the discussion.


Recognize that the interpreter is a professional.

If there is sufficient time, a meeting agenda and/or a vocabulary list (for technical situations) may be mailed to the interpreter or provided when he or she arrives at the site. If the consumer who is deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind or hearing is new to the interpreter, it is recommended that they meet a few minutes before the assignment to introduce themselves. This enables the interpreter and the consumer to become accustomed to each other's sign dialect and preferences. The interpreters and consumers will agree on the best placement for the interpreter, (i.e., in sufficient light, not in front of a bright light source, etc.).