5 Common Questions About American Sign Language Interpreting

Are you fluent in American Sign Language (ASL)? If not, would you know how to communicate with a deaf individual if he or she needed to visit your organization or place of business?

Let’s start with the law. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) prohibits discrimination and ensures equal opportunity for persons with disabilities in employment, state and local government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities, and transportation. This means you need to know how to request interpreters for the deaf, which could include requesting an American Sign Language interpreter to come to your site or setting up on-demand video interpreting services.

We get lots of different questions regarding American Sign Language interpreting. Here are answers to 5 commonly-asked questions:

1. What standards do people have to meet in order to become an American Sign Language interpreter? In other words, how do I know my American Sign Language interpreter is qualified?

The Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) was founded over 40 years ago with a mission to promote “excellence in the delivery of interpreting services among diverse users of signed and spoken languages through professional development, networking, advocacy, and standards.” Many agencies, including Affordable Language Services, have chosen to work with American Sign Language interpreters who have attained national certification through the RID. In order to achieve national certification, American Sign Language interpreters have to meet educational requirements, pass testing of their knowledge of interpreting (linguistics, ethics, decision making, etc.), as well as pass an interpreting performance exam. Once certified, an American Sign Language interpreter must renew his or her certification every 5 years. One of the renewal requirements is to have at least 80 hours of documented continuing education in every renewal period. By choosing to work with certified interpreters, you can be assured that your interpreter meets industry-standard requirements.

2. How much does an American Sign Language interpreter cost?

It depends! The going rate for American Sign Language interpreters varies by geography, the complexity and length of the interpreting assignment (medical, legal, conference, general, etc.), and if any special skills are required. For example, standard American Sign Language will not be sufficient for communication with a person who is Deaf-Blind or if the deaf individual is not fluent in American Sign Language and therefore requires the services of a Certified Deaf Interpreter.

Additional costs may be incurred for long or complex assignments when team interpreting is most appropriate. Travel expenses are typically only added if an interpreter has to travel outside of his or her standard interpreting area.

3. Will you need materials that will be covered at the interpreting session in advance? If so, how far in advance would you need them?

While it is not a requirement for every interpreting assignment, interpreters always appreciate having the ability to review and prepare. When possible, offer to share any relevant materials with interpreters with as much notice as possible. Advance preparation facilitates a more natural flow to interpreting assignments.

4. The interpreter will be exposed to very confidential information. Can they sign our non-disclosure agreement to assure that the information will be kept confidential?

Interpreters can definitely sign your non-disclosure agreement. In many cases this will be redundant because interpreters are typically required to sign a confidentiality and non-disclosure agreement when they contract to work with an interpreting agency. For example, all interpreters at Affordable Language Services sign our confidentiality and non-disclosure agreement before they can contract with our agency.

5. Would your company be interested in creating a long-term relationship with our company for any future needs that may arise?

Absolutely! We have many long-term relationships with healthcare providers, government agencies, schools, and businesses for all types of language services. At a minimum, we can help your company or organization remain compliant with the ADA.

Ultimately, you do not personally have to be fluent in American Sign Language in order to provide excellent customer service to the Deaf community. You do, however, need a trusted language partner.

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