Sign Language Interpreter FAQ

--Q: What is a professional sign language interpreter?

A: A professional sign language interpreter is someone who:

Has passed an Interpreter Certification exam, either nationally or state


Has been screened by the providing agency as it is mandated by state law

Is bound by the Code of Professional Conduct (national certification)
Is required to do yearly continuing education
Maintains strict client and customer confidentiality

--Q: What does a sign language interpreter do?

A: A professional sign language interpreter will:

Come to your physical location or work with you remotely through the internet
Will interpret everything that is spoken
Will speak everything that is signed
Will provide culturally correct interpreting

--Q: Why should I hire an interpreter?

Interpreters make communication quick and smooth
Interpreters make communication clear and unambiguous
Interpreters allow hearing and deaf people to communicate using their native languages
Interpreters protect you from miscommunication and resulting legal liability
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires public entities to provide accessible communication for deaf people
Read a concise explanation of the ADA, Title III as it applies to business.

--Q: I had another Deaf client that could read lips and write well. Why isn’t that working for my other Deaf client?

A: Just as no two people are the same; no two deaf people are the same. We all have different life experiences, levels of education, upbringings, and natural skills. Communication access must be considered on an individual basis, instead of as a ‘one-size-fits-all’.

--Q: Why isn’t writing back and forth good enough?

A: It is a common belief that American Sign Language (ASL) has the same grammatical structure and words as English. It is not “English on the hands”, but rather its own language with syntax and grammar drastically different from English. When you write notes with a Deaf person, you are still communicating in a language that may be their second language and thus one they may not be skilled at using. This often causes frustrations to both parties involved and also leaves room for error and miscommunication.

--Q: Why isn’t reading lips appropriate?
A: Reading lips is an extremely challenging skill to master. Only 30% of speech is understandable on the lips, leaving 70% of speech needing to be guessed or filled in by the reader. Reading lips is also a skill that must be actively practiced by both members of the conversation.

--Q: Are interpreting services free?

A: No, services are not free. There is a cost to hire an interpreter. However, the government does, in some instances, offer tax incentives to help cover the cost of sign language interpreters. Please consult your tax professional for details.

--Q: Why do I need a team of two interpreters?

A: Assignments lasting 2 hours or longer in length require 2 interpreters to be hired and work as a team. There are other instances in which 2 interpreters are needed, but the general industry standard is anything 2 hours or longer. Both interpreters are actively engaged in the process of interpreting. One will work providing communication, and the other will be monitoring the setting for communication issues, providing cues and support for the working interpreter, and monitoring time for a smooth transition. You will see the interpreters switching roles on regular intervals.

The reason for the industry standard of hiring a team of interpreters is to minimize interpreter fatigue. Research shows us the work of understanding one language, analyzing the overt and covert meaning of the language and also the necessary cultural mediation, and then applying the same process to produce an equivalent meaning in a second language, is a very mentally taxing task. After 1 hour of continuous work, the brain becomes fatigued and the quality of the interpretation suffers; errors and omissions rise. For this reason, a team of interpreters are used. A secondary reason for hiring a second interpreter is to reduce the occurrence of Repetitive Motion Injuries in interpreters.

--Q: How do I request a sign language interpreter?

A: Call JA Interpreting at +1 (407) 734-5501 or send an email to