How to Find a Sign Language Interpreter

Published October 26, 2020

Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities, including providing sign language interpretation during interviews. But how does one find a sign language interpreter, and what questions need to be asked to make sure someone is right for the position?

There are many resources online that can help make searching for an interpreter easier. Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) is a good place to start in the U.S. Many states also have directories with contact information and locations of facilities available by region. The New York Department of Education, for example, provides a list of facilities across the state for students and adults to reach out to in order to find someone they need.

Other states have similar services, such as the Georgia Center of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, where employers can fill out an online form to request an interpreter. RID provides a similar service nationwide in the U.S.

Another option for finding interpreters is to scout out interpreting classes at local colleges, universities and technical schools. Many churches also have volunteer or professional interpreters. It’s a good idea to have two interpreters on call in case the first one is ill or unavailable.

The most important factor is to make sure that interpreters have the right qualifications. They should be fully conversant in American Sign Language, which is the most widely used in the English-speaking world. The National Interpreter Certification credential is administered jointly by the National Association of the Deaf and RID. Earning this certification requires a written test, an interview and a performance test. There are three levels: certified, advanced and master. Other professional credentials include membership in the American Sign Language Teachers Association or the Conference of Interpreter Trainers.

Keep in mind that domain expertise may be important. Businesses in health care, law, finance and education, for example, use terminology that may require special skills. There are few certifications for specialty interpreting, so search for candidates with the requisite backgrounds and conduct screening interviews.

Having the knowledge and resources in place to bring interpreters into the workplace gives businesses a wider variety of hiring options, improves staff productivity and makes the workplace more inclusive. It’s a win-win-win proposition for businesses of any kind.

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