If you’ve never worked with a Sign Language interpreter before, you may not be aware of how to prepare for and conduct yourself during this interaction. Don’t worry – below are several guidelines that will help make a positive experience for you, the interpreter, and most importantly, the Deaf or Hard of Hearing (HoH) individual.
- Speak directly to the Deaf/HoH individual and make eye contact
This is the person you’re having a conversation with, not the interpreter. The interpreter is there to bridge communication, nothing more.
- Speak at a normal pace and volume
If the interpreter missed something you said, or needs you to slow down, they will ask you to do so.
- Anticipate a longer appointment
The interpretation process takes time. In order to avoid feeling rushed, it’s encouraged to schedule the appointment for 1.5 times longer than an appointment where both parties share the same language.
- Make sure the room is adequately lit
Since American Sign Language (ASL) is a visual language, it is important that there is enough light in the room. Feel free to ask the Deaf/HoH individual if the lighting and set up works for them.
- Speak one at a time
The interpreter only has 2 hands. In order to provide access and allow the Deaf/HoH person to participate in the meeting, it is important to be mindful of turn taking.
- Provide information ahead of time if possible
When giving a lecture or workshop that will be interpreted, it is best practice to provide the interpreter with as much information as possible beforehand. This may include a PowerPoint presentation, notes, or a list of names and titles that will announced. This allows the interpreter to prepare ahead of time and provide the best interpretation (therefore the best access) possible.
- Avoid using phrases such as “tell him” or “ask her”
Not only does this make the interpreting process more complicated and confusing, but it also demonstrates a lack respect for the individual. Although it may feel awkward at first, look and speak directly to the Deaf/HoH person. It will get much easier over time.
- Do not ask the interpreter for any personal information regarding the Deaf/HoH individual The interpreter is a professional – her or she is not the friend or family member, and does not know any personal information. Ask the individual, the interpreter will be able to facilitate communication in order to answer any questions you may have.
- Do not ask the interpreter to refrain from interpreting something during the appointment or meeting
Interpreters abide by a code of ethics that require them to interpreter everything they’re able to hear. If you need to make a private phone call or speak with someone in private, please leave the room, as you would if meeting with someone who is able to hear.
- Lastly, don’t be afraid
The Deaf/HoH individual and the interpreter are used to navigating a number of different situations with people who do not know sign language. Act like you normally would, and you will be fine!