Log in

How To: Providing ASL Interpreters

You may be required to provide American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters to customers who are deaf in certain situations to comply with the law. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that businesses provide "reasonable accommodations" to ensure that people with disabilities have equal access to goods and services.
In the case of customers who are deaf, providing an ASL interpreter may be necessary to ensure effective communication. Under Title III of the ADA, businesses that are open to the public, such as restaurants, hotels, and retail stores, must provide "auxiliary aids and services" to customers with disabilities, including those who are deaf.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice's ADA regulations, auxiliary aids and services can include "qualified interpreters or other effective methods of making aurally delivered materials available to individuals with hearing impairments." This means that businesses may need to provide an ASL interpreter for customers who are deaf if other effective methods of communication, such as written notes or lip-reading, are not sufficient.
Additionally, the ADA requires that businesses provide auxiliary aids and services in a timely manner and at no additional cost to the individual with a disability. This means that businesses cannot charge extra fees for providing an ASL interpreter or delay providing the interpreter to the point where the service becomes ineffective.
In summary, you may be required to provide American Sign Language interpreters to customers who are deaf to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Failure to do so may result in legal consequences, including fines and lawsuits.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Can the individual who is Deaf provide their own interpreter and pay for it themselves?

No, you cannot require an individual who is deaf to provide and pay for an interpreter themselves. The ADA regulations state that businesses must provide "auxiliary aids and services" to ensure effective communication with customers who have disabilities, and that these aids and services must be provided at no additional cost to the individual.

As a business owner, it is your responsibility to ensure that individuals who are deaf have equal access to your goods and services, and that includes providing an ASL interpreter if necessary. Requiring the individual to pay for an interpreter themselves could be seen as a form of discrimination under the ADA, and could result in legal consequences, including fines and lawsuits. Ultimately, it is important to prioritize the needs of individuals who are deaf and to ensure that they have equal access to your goods and services. Providing an ASL interpreter when necessary is an important step in achieving this goal.

Can the individual who is Deaf have their family member or friend interpret for them instead? 

In general, it is not appropriate to rely on family members or friends to interpret for a deaf individual. While family members or friends may be able to provide some level of communication support, they are not trained interpreters and may not be able to provide accurate, complete, and impartial interpretation. Using unqualified interpreters can lead to misunderstandings, errors, and violations of the individual's privacy and confidentiality.

The ADA regulations require that businesses provide "qualified interpreters or other effective methods" of communication to ensure effective communication with individuals who are deaf. A qualified interpreter is someone who is able to interpret accurately, effectively, and impartially, using any necessary specialized vocabulary.

While family members or friends may be able to help facilitate communication in some situations, they are not a substitute for a qualified interpreter. In situations where effective communication is essential, such as in a medical or legal setting, using an unqualified interpreter may not be sufficient to meet the requirements of the ADA.

Are small businesses required to provide ASL interpreters?

Yes, as a small business, you still have an obligation to provide an interpreter if necessary to ensure effective communication with customers who are deaf. The ADA applies to businesses of all sizes, including small businesses, and requires them to provide "reasonable accommodations" to ensure that people with disabilities have equal access to goods and services.

How much does providing interpreting services cost?

The cost of providing interpreting services can vary depending on several factors, such as the location, the type of interpreting needed, the duration of the assignment, and the qualifications and experience of the interpreter.

For example, the cost of providing interpreting services for a business meeting or a medical appointment may be different from interpreting services for a legal proceeding or a conference. Additionally, the hourly rate for an interpreter can vary depending on their qualifications and experience.

In some cases, the cost of providing interpreting services may also include travel expenses and other additional fees. It is important to request interpreting services well in advance so you can discuss these terms and iron out the details.

Overall, the cost of providing interpreting services can be significant, but it is important to remember that effective communication for individuals who are deaf is a legal requirement and a fundamental right. It may be helpful to work with a reputable interpreting agency that can provide guidance on the best approach and help to manage the cost of interpreting services.

What sort of information do I need to provide when requesting interpreting services?

When requesting an interpreter, it is important to provide as much information as possible to ensure that the interpreter is well-prepared for the assignment. When requesting an interpreter, you will need to provide the following information so the interpreter can determine if they are the right fit for the job and able to accept.

  1. Date and time: Provide the date and time of the assignment, as well as the expected duration of the assignment. This will help the interpreter to schedule their time accordingly.

  2. Location: Provide the location of the assignment, including the address and any special instructions or directions for finding the location.

  3. Type of assignment: Describe the type of assignment, such as a medical appointment, legal proceeding, business meeting, or conference. This will help the interpreter to prepare appropriately and to understand any specialized vocabulary or terminology that may be needed.

  4. Language needed: Specify the language needed for the assignment. The deaf individual who is requesting an interpreter may request a specific language need such as ASL, Signed Exact English, Cued Speech, tactile interpreting, close vision, etc. Provide as much information as you can and work with the interpreter/agency to determine language needs.

  5. Number of participants: Provide the number of participants who will be involved in the assignment, including any additional interpreters or support staff who may be needed.

  6. Contact information: Provide your contact information and any other relevant contact information for the assignment. Sharing the contact information for someone on site who can ensure the interpreter gets to the right place is crucial. After confirming with the interpreter/agency if they are available for the date and time you need, share the name of the individual/s who need interpreting. This will allow for the interpreter/agency to take into consideration any potential conflicts of interest with the individual/s and further confirm their ability to take the assignment. 

Providing "effective communication" is a little vague. What exactly does that mean for me? 

Providing effective communication to someone who has requested an interpreter means ensuring that they can understand and be understood in the same way as a person without a hearing disability. The specific method of effective communication will depend on the individual's needs and preferences, but generally, it should be accurate, timely, and complete. Effective communication is a two-way street. The person who is deaf may have their own preferences and needs for effective communication, and it is important to listen to their feedback and make adjustments as needed. 

  • When determining what type of effective communication is needed the burden doesn't fall on you. Talk with the person who is requesting an interpreter and ask them what their needs are. Ask them if they have any recommendations of interpreters or interpreting agencies that have worked with them in the past. 
  • If you don't know where to start you can visit our directory for a list of interpreters who are available to freelance. Start with those closest to you and see if their credentials fit your needs. 
  • Communication before, during, and after is crucial when arranging interpreting services.
    • Talk to the individual about their request throughout the process. Give them updates on scheduling and securing an interpreter. 
    • Provide relevant materials to the interpreter/agency so the best and most effective interpretation can be prepared. Meeting agendas, PowerPoints, and other relevant information provides the interpreter with context about the content needing to be interpreted and supports the goal of effective communication. Confidential information about the requestor themselves should not be shared with the interpreter in most cases. 
  • If you have a request that is ongoing and you will need interpreting on a recurring basis you have a couple of options.
    • Check with members on our registry to see if they could cover all of the assignments and book them in advance. Don't wait until the last minute to request an interpreter. 
    • Filter our list by organizational/agency members and reach out to a provider who already has a team of interpreters that they can coordinate to cover your needs. Interpreter agencies can also assist in assessing communication needs that need to be considered and help you ensure that someone qualified is assigned to the job.

I called an interpreter and they told me a team of interpreters is needed. Is that true? 

In some situations, more than one interpreter may be required to effectively communicate with a person who is deaf. This is known as team interpreting and is often used in situations where the communication is particularly complex or lengthy. 

Here are some situations where more than one interpreter may be required:

  1. Highly technical or specialized communication: If the conversation involves highly technical or specialized vocabulary, it may be beneficial to have two interpreters working together to ensure that all of the information is accurately conveyed.
  2. Lengthy meetings or events (two hours or more): For long meetings or events, it may be necessary to have more than one interpreter to ensure that the interpreters can take breaks and avoid fatigue. This is particularly important in legal or medical settings, where accuracy is critical.
  3. Interpreting for a group: If the person who is deaf is in a group setting, such as a classroom or a meeting, it may be necessary to have more than one interpreter to ensure that everyone can see and understand the interpreters.
  4. Interpreting for a deaf-blind person: If the person who is deaf is also blind, they may require tactile interpreting, which involves an interpreter who uses their hands to convey information through touch. In these situations, two interpreters may be required to ensure that the communication is accurate and clear.
  5. Ultimately, the decision to use more than one interpreter will depend on the specific needs of the person who is deaf and the nature of the communication. If you are unsure whether more than one interpreter is necessary, it may be helpful to consult with the person who is deaf or with a qualified interpreting agency.

    How do I know if an interpreter is qualified for the job? 

    Knowing whether an interpreter is qualified for the job is important to ensure effective communication for individuals who are deaf. Here are some key factors to consider when evaluating whether an interpreter is qualified:

    1. Effective January 1, 2024 the Sign Language Interpreters Act will establish new requirements for interpreters in various community settings. Please review the requirements on our Sign Language Interpreters Act page to determine what qualifications the interpreter must have for your specific setting. Be sure to ask the interpreter/agency. 
    2. Certification & other credentials: Look for interpreters who have certification from a recognized professional organization, such as the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) or the National Association of the Deaf (NAD). These organizations typically require interpreters to pass rigorous exams to demonstrate their proficiency. For K-12 educational interpreting SC RID recommends interpreters that have taken the Educational Interpreters Proficiency Assessment and have a score of 3.5 or higher as well as a passing score on the written portion. These qualifications will be listed under the interpreters profile on our directory page to assist you.
    3. Training and education: Look for interpreters who have completed formal training and education in interpreting. This could include completion of an interpreter training program or a degree in interpreting.
    4. Experience: Consider the interpreter's experience working in the specific setting where interpreting is needed. For example, if you need an interpreter for a legal setting, look for someone with experience in legal interpreting.
    5. Language proficiency: The interpreter should be proficient in both English and American Sign Language (ASL) or the language needed for the specific assignment. They should be able to interpret accurately and fluently, using specialized vocabulary as needed.
    6. Professional conduct: Look for interpreters who adhere to professional standards of conduct and ethics. They should be reliable, punctual, and respectful to all parties involved.
    7. When selecting an interpreter, it is important to communicate your expectations clearly and to discuss any special requirements or accommodations that may be needed. If you are working with a qualified interpreting agency, they can help you evaluate the qualifications of the interpreters they provide and ensure that you are matched with someone who is well-suited for the assignment.

      How do I find an interpreter?

      Finding an interpreter is easy if you visit our member directory. You can easily reach out to interpreters through the directory and ask about their availability and rates. If you need assistance finding an interpreter feel free to reach out to and provide all of the assignment details. We are happy to forward requests on to the membership for you. If you need to find interpreters frequently we would like to invite you to become an Organizational Member of SC RID. Becoming a member of SC RID will give you access to our Job Board and allow you to put requests out to the full membership anytime you need. 

      Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software