Frequently Asked Questions:

Why an interpreter:

Sign Language Interpreters are professionals that provide communication access between signing and non-signing members of the community. Businesses, schools, medical facilities and organizations hire interpreters to ensure accurate and clear communication for appointments, events, and meetings. Interpreters are also familiar with Deaf culture and can minimize cultural misunderstandings, and they can provide guidance to improve communication access.

Why can’t we just use pen and paper; isn’t writing back and forth good enough:
It is a common belief that American Sign Language (ASL) has the same grammatical structure and words as English. IT IS NOT, but rather ASL its own language with syntax and grammar drastically different from English. When you write back and forth with a Deaf person, you are still communicating in a language they may not be skilled at using. Thus miscommunication or a breakdown in communication occurs.

Can’t the deaf just read lips:

Reading lips is a skill. One that must be actively practiced by both members communicating. The speaker needs to have knowledge of how to communicate in order to effectively lip read.
Reading lips is an extremely challenging skill to master. Only 30% of speech is understandable on the lips, leaving 70% of speech needing to be guessed or filled in by the reader.

Why can’t I use a family member (i.e. the client’s son or daughter, husband or wife):
It is often suggested that a person should bring their own interpreter. The use of a family member as an interpreter is a common request. There are a plethora of reasons why using family or friends is wrong, inappropriate, and a liability risk to an organization or business. Especially in the medical setting. The first concern is; does the person interpreting have the skill level necessary to relay the message effectively and efficiently. The family member may not be familiar with the terminology of the setting, or maybe of an age that it simply isn’t appropriate for them to be in that setting. Professional sign language interpreters are trained, screened, and continue their education throughout their careers.  Interpreters have a wide range of experience in many different settings. Interpreters have passed tests asserting their skill, and can be held accountable for errors and omissions in their work. Using a family member puts the medical facility or business at risk for miscommunications, issues of safety, and medical errors.

Professional interpreters also operate under a strict code of ethics. Members of the deaf person’s family may feel uncomfortable or unwilling to communicate sensitive information, such as job performance problems or life-altering test results at the doctor’s office. In turn, the deaf person may not feel comfortable disclosing complete information about an incident or medical record because they do not want the family member to be exposed to confidential information. The Registry of Interpreter’s for the Deaf (RID) is the national organization for professional sign language interpreters, RID has a strict code of conduct that requires confidentiality and also complete and accurate interpretation of the message to and from both parties. If you would like more information about the Code of Professional Conduct, you may review it here.

Legally speaking am I required to hire an interpreter:
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states that any place of business (regardless of profit or non-profit status) cannot discriminate against any individual by denying them unequal access to services or events. In many situations for Deaf and Hard of Hearing community members, this means the business must hire a sign language interpreter at their own expense to provide equal access to communication. There are some exemptions. Please consult a legal professional for additional information. Click here for more ADA information.

Are interpreting services tax deductible:
Please consult your tax professional for details as there are some tax benefits for businesses that hire interpreters.

Is providing Protected Health Information to an interpreter a HIPAA violation:

Sharing information with an interpreter is not a violation of HIPAA.

HIPAA has a provision for interpreters to receive Protected Health Information as a business associate.

What is a Certified Deaf Interpreter (CDI) and why do I need one:
A CDI is a member of the Deaf community who has training as an interpreter, but also has specialized training to work with other members of the community that do not communicate using American Sign Language. Reasons for this vary, but can include: the use of a foreign sign language, deaf-blind, or individuals that communicate using mostly gestures, home signs, and mimes (sometimes referred to as “highly visual”.) CDIs work with a hearing interpreter and use their special training to facilitate communication more effectively than could be done with a hearing interpreter alone. More information about CDIs can be found here.

Most often asked is: Why do I need a team of two interpreters:
Assignments with a lot of verbal communication can be extremely difficult for an interpreter to follow and keep up with. Remember the interpreter is obtaining the information and then breaking down the material, lastly delivering it to the client in a way that they will best comprehend. This is an extremely taxing and mentally exhausting process. In order to ensure the client is getting equal access to the communication both interpreters are actively engaged in the process of interpreting. The first interpreter is providing communication, and the second interpreter actively works monitoring the setting for communication issues, providing cues and support for the working interpreter. You will notice interpreters switching roles on regular intervals.

The reason for the industry standard of hiring a team of interpreters is to minimize interpreter fatigue. Research shows us the work of understanding one language, analyzing the overt and covert meaning of the language and also the necessary cultural mediation, and then applying the same process to produce an equivalent meaning in a second language, is a very mentally taxing task. After 1 hour of continuous work, the brain becomes fatigued and the quality of the interpretation suffers; errors and omissions rise. For this reason, a team of interpreters are used.

How do I work with a sign language interpreter:
The interpreter’s job is to facilitate communication between users of ASL and users of English. The interpreter will not give opinions, advice, or support to either party; however sometimes she may ask for clarification to understand what is being said. The interpreter will sit or stand opposite the deaf person and near the main speaker. When you are speaking, talk directly to the deaf person and not to the interpreter. The interpreter will watch the deaf person’s signs, and their response will generally be in first person tense. You may see the interpreter using available graphics or handouts to support the interpretation. If you have any questions or concerns, relay them to the interpreter.  The communication should flow as if the interpreter isn’t present. Speak to the deaf person as you would anyone else.  Please do not direct your questions or comments to the interpreter as they’re there to facilitate communication between you and the client only.

“The ADA: Questions and Answers.” U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, Jan. 1997. Web. Aug. 2011.
“Questions and Answers for Health Care Providers.” National Association for the Deaf. Web. July 2011.
“Speechreading – E-Michigan Deaf and Hard of Hearing.” E-Michigan Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Ed. Julie Eckhardt. Michigan Coalition for Deaf and Hard of Hearing People, 2002. Web. 31 Dec. 2014.
“Standard Practice Papers.” RID Standard Practice Papers. Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, 1997-2010. Web. 30 Dec. 2014.