Using an ASL Interpreter

Utilizing an Interpreter may be a new experience for you. The interpreter is there to ensure all participants involved have equal language access. And please remember, when engaging with a person who is Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and/or Deaf-Blind, it is valuable to treat them as their own person, addressing them directly.

How to Use an ASL Interpreter

*NOTE: For additional direct instruction on How to Use an ASL Interpreter, you can contact the Office of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing under the Pennsylvania Labor and Industry and the Pennsylvania State Law for Registered Interpreters Act 57 . ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

• Recognize that all information discussed is kept confidential per the ethical tenants from the RID Code of Professional Conduct.

• Hearing people should look at the Deaf/HOH individual when speaking to them. Refrain from looking and speaking to the interpreter. This may feel awkward at first since the Deaf/HOH individual will need to look at the interpreter during the exchange. You will get used to it.

• Address the deaf person directly:

Correct Example - (Looking at the Deaf/HOH client) "Where were you born?"

Incorrect Example- (Looking at the interpreter) "Ask him where they were born."

• Speak or sign in your normal tone, at a normal pace. The interpreter will inform you if you need to pause or slow down.

• When possible, please share any notes, outlines, or handouts with the interpreter in advance. Interpreters may be coming into your situation with little or no knowledge about your business, and background information will help facilitate communication.

• Sometimes people read aloud at a faster pace than they typically sign or speak. When reading a large amount from written materials, consider providing a copy to the deaf audience members and the interpreter.

• The interpreter may ask for specific seating/positioning to facilitate the best viewing angles. It is usually best that the deaf consumer can see the interpreter and the presenter in the same line of sight.

• If, during the assignment, you plan to turn down the lights, remember to leave enough lighting on the interpreter so they can be seen. This may require auxiliary lighting for the interpreter.

• Be mindful that the interpreter should interpret EVERYTHING said following their RID Code of Professional Conduct. Avoid discussing subjects you don’t wish the other person to know. Do NOT ask the interpreter to omit anything, as they are not permitted to do so.

The interpreter should not be interjecting their personal opinions, and please do not ask them to do so.

• If the individual with whom you are communicating is not present, avoid giving messages to the interpreter for later relay to the individual. Interpreting is done only when all clientele are present.

• If you are unsure of the appropriate way to proceed in a particular situation, simply ask for clarification.

• Be aware that interpreting is physically and mentally fatiguing for both the interpreter and the client. Plan for breaks appropriately.

Using Team Interpreters vs. One Interpreter

ASL Interpreting is a taxing activity, both mentally and physically. Research has shown that an interpreter's ability to process the message and interpret it accurately diminishes after approximately 20 minutes of interpreting. Additionally, sign language interpreters have a high rate of repetitive motion injuries. Therefore, when an assignment is over 1.5-2 hours of continuous interpreting or the demands of the work is more technical and/or physically challenging, a team of two interpreters will be scheduled to ensure that the message is interpreted accurately for the full length of the assignment. Other situations may require a team, such as when there is a deaf presenter involved, or there is a deaf/blind consumer.

For more information on the best practices of working as a team, look to the RID Standard Practice Paper on Team Interpreting.

Using a Certified Deaf Interpreter (CDI/DI)

A Certified Deaf Interpreter (CDI) is a Deaf and Hard of Hearing individual who is RID certified. CDIs have natural language skills in American Sign Language, and they have experience with the Deaf community and cultural nuances.

CDIs are needed in challenging and unique interpreting situations, and are utilized when the client may have limited language skills, visual limitations, use a foreign language, use gestures or unfamiliar signs. A CDI is trained in using gestures, mime, props and other tools to assist in communication access. In teaming with a hearing interpreter, they can navigate challenging language barriers.

Deaf Interpreters (DI) are currently working towards RID certification and are in practice in the field of interpreting.

For more information on CDIs and their function in the interpreting process, look to RID Standard Practice Paper on the Use of a Certified Deaf Interpreter.

Interpreting in a Health Care/Medical and Mental Health Setting

Health Care/ Medical Setting:

Interpreting in the health care/medical setting involves locations such as family doctor and specialist appointments, surgeries/procedures, physical rehabilitation services, and testing/ imaging. This type of interpreting incorporates medical processes, medical terminology and navigating the health care system. For more information interpreting in this setting, please look to the RID Professional Standards document for Health Care Settings .

*ATTENTION HEALTH CARE PROVIDERS! You can find a document regarding the responsibilities of health care providers to their Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing patients by the legal department at the National Association for the Deaf (NAD) entitled Questions and Answers for Health Care Providers .

Mental Health Setting:

Interpreting in a mental health setting such as counseling appointments, inpatient and outpatient therapy, group therapy meetings, psychiatric/family doctor medication appointments, clinic settings, long term residential placements, and emergency rooms. Interpreting in these setting may require special accommodations to make sure the clients have full communication access. For more information interpreting in this setting, please look to the RID Professional Standards document for Mental Health Settings .

Interpreting for Individuals Who are Deaf-Blind

When interpreting for those in the Deaf-Blind community, it is important to remember that they encompass a range of vision loss and hearing loss requiring a specialized approach to interpreting. Experienced interpreters who work with Deaf-Blind individuals are knowledgeable about and skilled in communicating environmental factors. They are able to express the speaker’s message, while also communicating sights, sounds and environmental occurrences that provide full communication access to the Deaf-Blind individual. Specialized conditions and methods in order to provide equal access may include, but are not limited to ProTactile Interpreting, hand over hand method, distance of seating, proper lighting, providing large print materials, assistive technology, and much more.

For more details on interpreting for the Deaf-Blind community, please refer to the RID Standard Practice Paper entitled Interpreting for the Individuals who are Deaf and Blind.

Interpreting in an Educational School Setting

Interpreting for Deaf and Hard of Hearing students in Kindergarten through 12th Grade requires specified guidelines and testing regulations that can be found under the Paraprofessional Staff description at the Pennsylvania Department of Education. To work in this capacity in the state of Pennsylvania, an interpreter is required to pass a test called the Educational Interpreting Performance Assessment (EIPA). There are two tests available; Elementary and Secondary. Once one of these tests are passed, the individual has the qualifications to work at the grade levels of the test taken, and must follow the requirements to maintain their EIPA.

Educational Interpreters are bound by their own EIPA Guidelines of Professional Conduct. This Professional Conduct document and all information regarding the EIPA can be found at The Boys Town National Research Hospital - Classroom Interpreting website. For the state of Pennsylvania, you can get all testing information and EIPA state regulations at the Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network (PaTTAN) .

The RID Standard Practice Paper also offers more information on an Overview of K-12 Educational Interpreting .

The law of Act 57 in Pennsylvania also qualifies RID Certified interpreters to work in any educational setting.

Interpreting in a Legal Setting

Regulations for interpreting in the court/legal system can be found at the Pennsylvania Labor and Industry website entitled Guidelines for Certified Interpreters Law . The state guidelines indicate that court interpreters are required to be Pennsylvania State Registered and certified through the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts (AOPC). A specified amount of continuing education hours must be obtained to be in good standing with the AOPC.

A legal setting is not limited to a courtroom setting. It also includes such events as attorney-client meetings, investigations by law enforcement, depositions, witness interviews, real-estate settlements, court-ordered programs, and hearings. For more information about the details of providing highly qualified interpreters for a legal setting, please refer to the RID Standard Practice Interpreting in Legal Settings .