LBP Interpreting Services

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Following the passage of a number of laws concerning the education of deaf children, educational interpreting has become more common in elementary and secondary schools. This is a growing profession and can be one way of making school programs and services more accessible to children who are deaf. As a member of the educational team, the interpreter should be an educated and qualified professional.

What is the role of the educational interpreter?

The fundamental role of an interpreter, regardless of specialty or place of employment, is to facilitate communication between persons who are deaf and hard of hearing and others.

Educational interpreters facilitate communication between deaf students and others, including teachers, service providers, and peers within the educational environment. Many educational environments have a communication policy which should be clearly defined to the interpreter applicant. The educational team may be composed of school personnel and parents and may be more structured in some school districts than others. The educational interpreter is a memberof the educational team and should be afforded every opportunity to attend meetings where educational guidelines are discussed concerning students who are provided services by that interpreter.

What responsibilities are appropriate for an educational interpreter?

Interpreting is the primary responsibility of the interpreter. The interpreter may perform this responsibility in a variety of settings, in and outside of the classroom including:

  • instructional activities
  • field trips
  • club meetings
  • assemblies
  • counseling sessions
  • athletic competitions

Interpreting is the educational interpreter's primary role, and must take priority over any other demands. In some schools, interpreters may also interpret for deaf parents, deaf teachers, and other deaf employees.

Interpreters may have additional responsibilities when not interpreting.1 In determining appropriate responsibilities, it is important to utilize specialized competencies and skills of the interpreter and assign only those responsibilities for which the interpreter is qualified.

Responsibilities that maximize the interpreter's effectiveness during non-interpreting periods of time might include:

  • planning and preparing for the interpreting task
  • presenting in-service training about educational interpreting
  • working with teachers to develop ways of increasing interaction between deaf students and their peers
  • if qualified, tutoring the student who is deaf or hard of hearing
  • if qualified, teaching sign language to other school staff and to pupils who are not deaf

Responsibilities that tend to reduce the interpreter's effectiveness may include:

  • copying and filing
  • playground supervision
  • bus attendant duty
  • lunchroom duty
  • monitoring study hall

The educational interpreter's responsibilities and the relative proportion of time between interpreting and non-interpreting responsibilities are likely to vary from one work setting to another and may be influenced by a number of factors which may include:

  • number of students who are deaf or hard of hearing in the school or district and distribution across grade levels and school buildings
  • possibility of physical injury due to stress or overuse.2
  • nature of the employment; full-time, part-time, or hourly
  • interpreter's background, knowledge, skill, and competencies
  • qualifications and availability of the interpreting staff

How can confusion about the interpreter's responsibilities be avoided?

The role and responsibility of the interpreter is distinct from that of the teacher and that of other professionals in the educational setting. This distinction must be kept clear. For example, for the interpreter to provide classroom instruction anddiscipline directly to a student would be inappropriate because that is the teacher's responsibility.

A clear and detailed job description, prepared in advance of hiring and shared with the interpreter applicant and with others who need to understand the interpreter's duties, will help avoid confusion and misunderstanding.

Who should supervise the educational interpreter?

A member of the educational administration staff who has an understanding of interpreting should supervise the interpreter.

In most cases, hiring an agency outside the educational institution or using a teacher in whose class the educational interpreter works would not be appropriate. The interpreter's supervisor may have interpreting skills, which is valuable, but the supervisor should at least know what interpreting is, how the interpreter functions best as a member of the educational team, and when interpreting is or is not the most appropriate service. If the supervisor is not qualified to evaluate interpreting skills or performance, an outside consultant knowledgeable in interpreter assessment and skill development should be hired.

What qualifications should the educational interpreter have?

Interpreting is a highly specialized professional field; simply knowing sign language does not qualify a person as an interpreter.

Professional sign language interpreters develop their specialization through extensive training and practice over a long period of time. In addition, skills in oral transliteration may be needed. Throughout their careers, interpretersimprove their skills, knowledge, and professionalism through continued training and through participation in RID. The use of a comprehensive written professional development plan will guide the educational interpreter to meet professional goals, including that of certification.

In interpreting, as in other professions, appropriate credentials are an important indicator of competence. RID awards certification to interpreters who successfully pass national tests. The tests assess not only language knowledge and communication skills, but also knowledge and judgment on issues of ethics, culture and professionalism which form the essential foundation for quality interpreting. The assessments do not test for additional specialist skills necessary in educational settings.

Many interpreters working in educational settings either already have or are working toward certification. An increasing number of states are requiring educational interpreters to have interpreting credentials.

Educational interpreting is a specialty requiring additional knowledge and skills. In the classroom, the instructional content varies significantly, and the skills and knowledge necessary to qualify an interpreter vary accordingly. In the primarygrades, the interpreter needs a broad basic knowledge of the subject areas such as mathematics, social studies, and language arts, and should have an understanding of child development. At the secondary level, the interpreter needs sufficient knowledge and understanding of the content areas to be able to interpret highly technical concepts and terminology accurately and meaningfully.

How is reasonable compensation determined for the educational interpreter?

Pay levels and employee benefits for educational interpreters should be competitive with that of other professional school employees. They should be based on interpreting skills, education, experience, certification, performance, and job responsibilities.

Creation of positions with appropriate pay and benefits is a key to attracting and keeping qualified professional interpreters.

RID Standard Practice Paper on Educational Interpreting.

About Team Interpreting during Conferences, Business Meetings and Trainings -

Team interpreting is the utilization of two or more interpreters who support each other to meet the needs of a particular communication situation. Depending on both the needs of the participants and agreement between the interpreters, responsibilities of the individual team members can be rotated and feedback may be exchanged.

The decision to use a team rather than an individual interpreter is based on a number of factors, including, but not limited to:

  • length and/or complexity of the assignment,
  • unique needs of the persons being served,
  • physical and emotional dynamics of the setting,
  • avoidance of repetitive stress injuries (RSIs) for interpreters.

An interpreter who is hearing may sometimes team with an interpreter who is deaf, called a certified deaf interpreter (CDI). (See CDI Standard Practice Paper for additional information.)

The Team Process

All team members are actively engaged in the process. They may be providing direct interpretation services, actively working between the two languages or functioning in a supporting role. This support is necessary to enhance the team's performance and assure accurate communication takes place and may include:

  • monitoring the overall setting
  • assuring appropriate and timely transitions
  • supporting/cueing other team members as needed.
  • At times, more than one team of interpreters may be needed. Some factors determining the number of interpreters needed are:
  • size of the audience
  • setting
  • communication preferences of presenter(s) and audience type and interactivity of presentation

Special communication needs of those in attendance (including, but not limited to, the need for tactile, oral or close visual range interpretation) and the dynamics of the scheduled events (concurrent sessions, off site tours, etc.).

When two or more interpreters are working together, the team will need a sufficient amount of time prior to the assignment to determine placement, roles and how to provide support to each other.

Settings where teams work can include, but are not limited to, post-secondary education, ceremonies, lectures, workshops, staff meetings and employee orientations, adversarial hearings and performing arts.

RID believes that through teaming, all consumers can receive optimum communication because each team member can function at their best.

LBP can provide interpreting for numerous events including small church venues to large concerts.

Please contact us in advanced to inquire about using LBP Interpreting INC services at your next event.

What is the legal basis for providing sign language interpreters in health care settings?

The Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §12101, et seq. (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act 29 U.S.C. §794 et seq., and any state laws which apply, impose requirements on various public and private facilities, including most health care offices and hospitals. These laws prohibit discrimination against individuals with disabilities, including depriving them of the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages or accommodations of any place of public accommodation.

How do I know a sign language interpreter will be needed?

The patient, family member or companion, who is deaf, may request an interpreter, or when the health care provider becomes aware that the consumer(s) is deaf, an interpreter can be contracted.

What areas of health care may require the use of a sign language interpreter?

Sign language interpreters are necessary in any situation in which the information to be exchanged requires effective communication. This will include but is not limited to:

• Taking a patient's medical history
• Giving diagnoses
• Performing medical procedures
• Explaining treatment planning
• Explaining medicine prescription and regimen
• Providing patient education or counseling
• Describing discharge and follow up plans
• Admitting to emergency departments/urgent care

Legal interpreting requires highly skilled and trained specialists because of the significant consequences to the people involved in the event of a failed communication. Deaf people have a legal right to a qualified interpreter, and in legal settings, a qualified legal interpreter will have a specific skill set to ensure that the deaf person's right to be present and participate is not compromised.

This standard practice paper discusses legal interpreting globally; however, within the broader spectrum of legal interpreting, practice may vary depending on the nature of the assignment. For example, when interpreting for the police, the interpreter is governed by a different set of legal rules than when interpreting privileged attorney-client conferences. At all times, however, the interpreter is governed by ethical standards established by RID which require accurate interpreting and maintenance of confidentiality, absent a court order, regardless of setting. The legal interpreter will explain toparticipants, prior to engaging in interpreting, the applicable guidelines for working with the interpreter in the specific setting.

Qualified Legal Interpreter

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) requires the use of "qualified interpreters." The implementing regulations define a qualified interpreter as one "who is able to interpret effectively, accurately and impartially both receptively and expressively, using any necessary specialized vocabulary."

Additionally, legal interpreters are governed by the NAD-RID Code of Professional Conduct.

The Code requires that interpreters "possess the professional skills and knowledge required for the specific interpreting situation." In the context of legal interpreting, "necessary specialized vocabulary" and "professional skills and knowledge" are obtained through specialized interpreter training.

As with other professions, the field of sign language interpretation has developed specific credentials that indicate minimum levels of competency to interpret in legal settings. RID awards the

Specialist Certificate: Legal ("SC: L") to interpreters who meet specific criteria regarding prior certification, education and experience. While the number of interpreters holding the SC: L has increased, not enough interpreters hold this credential to fully satisfy the demand for legal interpreters. As a result, much legal interpreting is done by individuals certified as generalist practitioners to interpret in the language used by the deaf person and who also have successfully completed legal interpreter training in order to understand and use the necessary specialized vocabulary associated with legal settings.

Because qualified interpreters are in great demand, hiring parties are advised to start early to locate the appropriate complement of interpreters once the need is known. Many courts have a liaison for court interpreting who maintains a roster of trained interpreters. In addition, most cities have private practice interpreters who are listed by certification on RID's Web site. Additionally, the Web site lists businesses and organizations that provide interpreters and will have information on the quality, skills and availability of local interpreters.

Standard Practices – Generally Applicable

Upon accepting a legal assignment, the legal interpreter will conduct an analysis with respect to the communication needs that exist and make recommendations accordingly. These recommendations will focus on a number of factors that impact communication between deaf and non-deaf individuals.

These factors may impact the number of interpreters required, positioning of the interpreters and turn-taking.

Recommendations will be based upon principles developed by the profession, the courts, legislators, administrators and a rich body of case law regarding language interpreting in legal settings.

Staffing a Legal Matter

At a minimum, two interpreters are typically required for most legal assignments. Because legal assignments are generally more complex, interpreters often work in teams and relieve each other at predetermined periods. One interpreter actively interprets while the other interpreter watches to ensure accuracy of the interpretation. The process is alternated at appropriate intervals between the two interpreters.

The Deaf community is diverse, and different deaf people will have different communicative needs which dictate the credentials of the interpreter. Some deaf people have been deaf all their lives and usethe natural language of deaf people referred to as American Sign Language (ASL). Other deaf people may have lost their ability to hear after acquiring spoken English and therefore use a system of sign that approximates English. Other deaf people may not have received a formal education and as a result, have only limited capacity in using sign. Long years of experience have demonstrated that native deaf users of ASL are more effective at communicating with this segment of the population than the general practitioner interpreter who can hear. RID awards a generalist certificate for deaf interpreters who have demonstrated proficiency in working with this population. For Certified Deaf Interpreters (CDI), a conditional permit to work in legal settings is also awarded by RID. As a part of the legal interpreter's practice, the interpreter will need time to make an accurate assessment of the communication needs. If specializedcommunication services are required, the interpreter will inform the hiring party and assist in locating the specialized services.

Potential Risks

Certain legal assignments, such as law enforcement interpreting, pose great risk for the interpreter who may be called as a witness later to defend their work in the interpreted assignment. As such, additional protections are typically instituted such as video taping the session, using consecutive interpreting principles and providing for the assistance of a credentialed deaf interpreter.


The interpreter is ethically obligated to prepare for all assignments, particularly legal and court assignments. To that end, interpreters will contact counsel or the hiring party and request to review pertinent documents to prepare to interpret accurately. Because interpreters are necessary for communication, sharing preparatory materials with them does not breach the attorney-client privilege.

Interpreters are governed by strict rules regarding confidentiality and will not reveal information learned on an assignment, absent a court order or other legal mandate.

Conflicts & Ethics

Based upon the preparation, the interpreter will analyze his or her compatibility with the assignment and determine the existence of any conflicts of interest. A variety of conflicts might prohibit the interpreter from accepting an assignment. The interpreter might have personal knowledge about the matter or the parties; may have previously interpreted in a phase of the case such as the interrogation, which would prohibit the interpreter from accepting the proceedings work; or because of the topic of the matter the interpreter may be ethically inclined not to accept the work.

Ethically, interpreters are not permitted to take an active role in any assignment; however, prior to or after interpreting, legal interpreters may provide guidance and referrals on relevant issues. Interpreters do not add, omit, edit or participate in the substance of an interpreted conversation outside necessary communications to manage the interpreting process.

RID Standard Practice Paper – Legal Interpreting