What does an Interpreter DO?

According to the RID (Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf), Sign Language/spoken English interpreters are highly skilled professionals. They must be able to listen to another person's words, inflections and intent and simultaneously render them into the visual language of signs using the mode of communication preferred by the Deaf consumer. The interpreter must also be able to comprehend the signs, inflections and intent of the Deaf consumer and simultaneously speak them in articulate, appropriate English. They must understand the cultures in which they work and apply that knowledge to promote effective cross-cultural communications.

To find out more about the interpreting profession, visit the website for RID at www.rid.org.

What is American Sign Language?

ASL is a rich, beautiful, complex language. It is comprised of a combination of hand movement and placement, facial expression, and body language. Many people are familiar with the manual alphabet, but the language is far more than that. American Sign Language is a complete language, comparable to all other foreign languages in that it has its own syntax and grammar unique to itself. Someone who has grown up with ASL as their native language may have a difficult time understanding written English. For these individuals, interpreters may be needed to interpret content contained in various important documents.

Why do I need to hire an interpreter?

Sign language interpreting is an effective means of providing communications access to your business or organization. Providing a sign language interpreter saves time, and reduces confusion, liability, and frustration for all parties involved.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) says that a variety of public and private services as well as employers must be accessible to all people, regardless of their disability. When an employer, service provider, government agency or private business is dealing with people who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, or Deaf-Blind, communication with them must be accessible. The best way to ensure quality communication with these individuals is to utilize a professional Interpreter.

An interpreter should be used whenever you want to accurately and efficiently convey information. Examples might be official meetings, social events, disciplinary proceedings, telephone conferences, medical appointments, and meetings open to the public. Utilizing an interpreter ensures that impartiality and confidentiality while the information is being conveyed. Impartiality and confidentiality allows all parties to participate equally by using their own native language.

Is the Deaf person responsible for payment?

No. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a business or organization cannot charge a person with a disability for the cost of the accommodation, such as a sign language interpreter. Also, keep in mind that the hearing consumers are utilizing the interpreting services just as much as the Deaf consumers. For more information refer to the ADA website. Health Care Providers can click to view a Question and Answer

Document published by NAD regarding the ADA and providing services to Deaf patients.

Is it expensive to pay for interpreting services?

Interpreters are professionals who have trained and developed skills to attain certification in their field. There are a limited number of interpreters with a considerable demand for their services. Interpreting services should be budgeted as part of your annual planning for making your business accessible. It is true that, on a per-encounter basis, you may pay more for interpreting services than you generate in revenue for your company. However, if you consider the cost over the course of a year as an overhead cost of doing business, providing this access to your employees, customers, or patients can be quite reasonable. There can also be tax credits for providing accommodations for individuals with disabilities.

Can someone at my company who knows sign language interpret for us?

Interpreting is a complex task requiring more than just basic knowledge of sign language. The process of translating a message from one language to another requires considerable proficiency in both languages, as well as knowing principles of interpreting accurately. Professional Interpreters hold certification from national certifying organizations and carry professional liability insurance. In the case someone who knows some sign language at your facility, there is no guarantee of quality, accuracy, or confidentiality of information. In addition, PA Law requires that anyone working as an interpreter have a national certification and be registered with the State Office of Deaf & Hard of Hearing (ODHH).

Can we use their family member to interpret for them?

There are a number of factors to consider in this situation. Ethical concerns, privacy, security, emotions, and liability are factors. Especially in cases of emergency situations, it would be highly unethical to place a family member in the middle of translating critical communications when they need to be focusing on personal matters. In some cases, subjects will come up in conversation that may be inappropriate for the family member to be party to. Also, the liability situation can become quite complicated if a family member makes a mistake in the midst of stress. Incorrect medication can be given, financial decisions can be misdirected, and other communication complications could adversely affect the Deaf person's life. Just because a family member may be able to communicate in sign language does not mean that they can function as an effective interpreter. Qualified interpreters should always be employed to avoid unfavorable results.