Category Archives: Hiring an ASL Interpreter

5 Things to Look for When Hiring Sign Language Interpreters

hiring-professional-asl-deaf-interpreter-individual-business-corporation-faq-general-info-01Imagine rushing to the hospital because a family member has been injured, but when you arrive nobody can tell you what happened because you do not speak the same language. Sitting bedside, holding the hand of a loved one who is broken, bleeding and unconscious, you have no idea what occurred, what is going on, or whether they will be ok. Many hours later an interpreter finally arrives to provide communication, but they start interpreting things that don’t even make sense. Something about surgery for a basketball … test … later friendship? What? The interpreter is not effectively communicating the message from the doctors, which just results in more frustration and confusion during an already stressful situation.

All Interpreting Agencies Are Not Created Equal

hiring-sign-language-interpreter-general-info-02Unfortunately it is still common for individuals with hearing loss to endure substandard ASL interpreting services provided by low quality interpreters. Because there is no mandatory national standard for requiring licensure and certification, poor interpreting services continue to deny Deaf individuals the ability to participate in conversations that impact their lives. Hiring unqualified interpreters is ultimately a waste of financial resources, and can open an organization up to potential violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

A person who is hiring sign language interpreters for the first time may not be sure what to look for in a provider or agency. Ensuring quality interpreting services for Deaf individuals can be especially challenging to those who do not know American Sign Language and are unfamiliar with Deaf culture. Below are 5 things to look for when assessing the quality and capabilities of a sign language interpreting service provider.

1. Look For: Agencies That Specialize In Signed Languages

how-to-hire-sign-language-interpreter-tri-state-03Signed languages are unique because they are visual languages, existing in 3-Dimensions. ASL is a distinct language with its own grammar rules and structure. It relies heavily on facial cues and body language, as well as the use of classifiers to convey meaning. There are signs commonly used within different industries for specific terminologies, and even regional dialects.

There are many large multi-language agencies out there offering sign language interpreting services, but they do not have a vetting process that ensures the quality of their interpreters. Working with an agency that specializes in signed languages can help assure effective communication from interpreters that have the appropriate skills and credentials.

2. Look For: Deaf-owned, Coda-owned, or Interpreter-owned Agencies

An agency that is owned by an individual who is Deaf, from a Deaf family, or a seasoned ASL interpreter can offer advantages over the competition. The owners of these agencies will have the firsthand experience to navigate language and cultural barriers, and they will be able to create workability for both Deaf and hearing parties to ensure effective communication.

sign-language-interpreters-faq-04Individuals who are Deaf, or individuals who were raised in Deaf families – Codas (Children of Deaf Adults) and Sodas (Siblings of Deaf Adults)— have a strong tie to American Sign Language and the ability of this language to empower those with hearing loss. For many of these individuals, ASL is the language of their families and/or their friends. To those involved in the Deaf community, ASL is more than just a language, it demonstrates the importance of connection and the freedom of self expression.

Interpreters who have a strong background providing reliable services in a variety of settings understand what full accessibility looks like all along the spectrum of hearing loss. Over the years, Deaf consumers will share with interpreters some of the challenges that they face. Interpreters often witness lack of access when in the field, and have experience working alongside both hearing and deaf clients to come to effective resolution.

Agencies that have direct involvement within the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community will have an understanding of current topics surrounding civil rights, technology, and social issues that concern those who are Deaf/ HoH. Cultural competency at these organizations is likely to be higher among agency staff and interpreters.

3. Look For: Agencies that Provide Resources and Support for Their Clients

hire-best-asl-interpreter-nyc-ct-nj-tri-state-info-05In the search for interpreting service providers, it’s a good idea to look for agencies that emphasize ongoing support for their clients. Seek agencies that provide not only interpreters, but information to help the communication be effective and successful.

Sure, it’s great that the interpreter showed up. But does the hearing staff know how to utilize their services? Do they know where the interpreter should sit or stand? Do they know how to address the Deaf individual through the interpreter? Do they know how to follow up if the interpreter was not effective, or displayed unprofessional behavior?

One way to assess whether an agency provides client support is to browse their website and/or social media to see what kind of resources they provide for free. Look for agencies that offer opportunities to make further connections within the Deaf community, as well as current news and events. Another way is to contact the agency directly with any questions to evaluate whether they are generally responsive and helpful.

4. Look For: Agencies That Value Their Interpreters

As with any occupation, the way that an agency treats their workers is a reflection of their company values. Interpreters are typically contractors, meaning they are freelancers who have control over their schedule and who they work with. Quality ASL interpreters will flock to agencies that show respect for their time and have a positive reputation among Deaf consumers.

How can a person looking from the outside know if an agency values their interpreters? Here are a few simple ways to tell:

  • They assign Team Interpreters: This ensures the accuracy of services for the Deaf consumer, and protects interpreters from exhaustion. Due to the physical and mental nature of ASL interpreting, interpreters will begin to experience extreme fatigue after about an hour of interpreting alone. When a request is made for interpreting services that requires over one hour of consecutive interpreting, a second interpreter should always be assigned to work as a team throughout the requested time.
  • They assign Deaf Interpreters: Deaf interpreters work as a team with a hearing sign language interpreter to ensure the accuracy of communications when working with Deaf individuals, especially in traumatic or emotionally distressing situations, or when communicating with individuals for whom ASL is not a first language. There are times when the only person who can really understand a Deaf individual is another person who is Deaf. This is true when it comes to language skills, since not everyone uses formal American Sign Language, and it is also true when it comes to recognizing and navigating instances of institutional oppression. Agencies should advocate for the use of Deaf interpreters in situations where cultural barriers and power dynamics can influence the outcome of the communications. (More on the value of Deaf Interpreters HERE).
  • They have a fair Cancellation Policy: Most Sign Language Interpreters work as contractors, so they are freelancers responsible for filling up their own schedules to generate income. Interpreters will plan their schedules out weeks in advance to line up assignments in a way that makes sense for transporting around the city to different locations. Agencies that value their interpreters will protect the time of their contractors by ensuring they are paid by the client for the time they block off in their schedule if the request is cancelled without a reasonable amount of time to secure another job. Typically, this means at least 2 business days advance notice. Quality interpreters will only work for agencies that demonstrate value for their interpreter’s time and respect for their schedules.
  • They emphasize ongoing professional development: When reviewing agencies, it’s advisable to look for those who work with Nationally Certified interpreters and interpreters who have completed an Interpreter Training Program. Seek agencies that openly advocate for higher interpreting standards, and organizations that offer interpreter mentoring programs for those new to the field.

5. Look for: Agencies that Seek Feedback

general-info-hiring-asl-deaf-interpreter-medical-settings-businesses-06Customer and client feedback is essential to the development of any organization. Since agency owners cannot be in the field with interpreters at all times, reaching out to both Deaf and hearing consumers can help an interpreting agency maintain an exceptional level of service and to quickly resolve any issues that may arise. Seek agencies that are easy to connect with and consistently responsive to inquiries, both before and after services have been rendered. Interpreting agencies that actively solicit feedback demonstrate commitment to ensuring quality and satisfaction.

LC Interpreting Services has more than 200 highly skilled sign language interpreters working in a variety of fields to provide communication access between Deaf and hearing individuals. LCIS offers top quality interpreters for individuals and organizations of all size throughout the greater NYC metropolitan region and New Jersey. Our interpreters are carefully screened and assigned based on experience and qualifications to ensure the best possible services for clients and Deaf consumers.

Contact us today to BOOK AN INTERPRETER!

2014: Deaf Culture Totally Had a Moment

This past year was a very visible one for Deaf Culture and American Sign Language. From viral videos to late night TV appearances, mainstream audiences just couldn’t get enough of Deaf superstars or their fascinating visual language. As we leave 2014, let’s take a look back at some of the most memorable Deaf pop culture moments of this year, and hope that 2015 brings even more awareness!

claire-koch-youtube20. KODA Signs Holiday Concert for Deaf Parents:

Okay, technically this happened in December 2013, but it’s so cute I couldn’t leave it out! Kindergartener Claire Koch decided to use ASL at her school holiday concert to make sure her Deaf family members could enjoy the performance, and it was adorable. So adorable, that the video her mother posted went viral with over 8 million views to date!

studiofeed-music-backpack-0219. New Technologies Present New Possibilities:

Each year, new technologies emerge which attempt to simplify and improve the lives of deaf individuals. A number of companies are working on different sign-to-speech translation solutions; while others are taking creative approaches to speech-to-text. One of my favorite ideas of 2014 is the StudioFeed music backpack, which turns music into a full body experience.

atlanta_pride_david_cowan18. Deaf Interpreter demonstrates what equal access really looks like at Atlanta PRIDE:

Deaf interpreter David Cowan is a known favorite among Deaf LBGT individuals for his expressive and appropriately flamboyant work each year at Atlanta PRIDE. Across the country, PRIDE festivals tout themselves as all-inclusive events. Hiring a Deaf Interpreter that deaf/HoH audiences adore is a beautiful example of equality.

santa-claus-speaking-in-asl17. People in Costumes Using ASL with Kids:

From mall Santas to baseball mascots— the people behind the characters have been doing their diversity homework! This year, there were a number of heartwarming stories and videos featuring deaf children who are overjoyed to discover that their favorite characters can communicate with them using ASL. Learning even a few simple phrases can help deaf kids feel included!

 

nick_news_with_linda_ellerbee-now-hear-this-0516. “Now Hear This” Premiers on Nickelodeon

It was pretty inspiring to see a children’s television network take a genuine interest in Deaf Culture. This Nick News special focused on the lives of several deaf young people across the country, and showcased how there are many different ways to be a deaf person in a hearing world.

jonathan-lamberton-asl-nyc-ebloa-press-conference-0615. Deaf Interpreter goes Viral After NYC Ebola Press Conference

As Mayor Bill de Blasio delivered critical information to the citizens of New York regarding the Ebola virus, Deaf Interpreter Jonathan Lamberton addressed the deaf population. Many hearing individuals were fascinated by Lamberton’s dramatic signing style, as it was the first time they had ever seen a Deaf Interpreter in action.

fargo-deaf-character-asl14. Popular TV Show “Fargo” Casts a Deaf Character who Uses ASL:

When creating characters for the FX series Fargo (based on the Coen brother’s film), the show’s creators decided to stray from the usual formula by writing a deaf character into the story. The character, played by actor Russell Harvard, is not included in the show to address deaf issues or explore Deaf culture; he is simply a normal character who happens to be deaf. Hopefully other programs will follow suit, as there are many talented deaf actors out there and all audiences deserve to see more diversity on screen!

derrick-coleman-deaf-athlete-pro-sports-0813. Deaf Athletes in Professional Sports:

Seattle Seahawks player Derrick Coleman gained superstar status not only for his impressive athleticism, but because he proved that deafness does not have to be a barrier in professional sports. Coaches and scouts have taken note, and are now offering more deaf athletes the opportunities they deserve.

robert-panara-deaf-pioneer12. Deaf Pioneers Leave Their Legacy:

Legendary Phyllis Frelich was the inspiration for, and the original star of, “Children of a Lesser God,” a revolutionary piece which introduced audiences to a complex, nuanced deaf character in a lead role. It won a Tony award for best play, and was later adapted into a film which won Marlee Matlin an Oscar. Frelich passed away this year, but her groundbreaking work has inspired and paved the way for generations of deaf performers to come.
In 2014, we also lost professor, writer, and poet Robert Panara. Panara helped translate classic works of literature into ASL, and was instrumental in the establishment of deaf studies higher education curriculum.

violations-of-deaf-citizens-rights11. Violations of Deaf Citizens Rights Gain Mainstream Attention:

The tragic and deplorable treatment of deaf/HoH individuals by the criminal justice system is finally being exposed, thanks to the information age. Stories about deaf people being beaten by cops, wrongfully convicted, and abused in jail were widely read and shared across the internet; leading to an increase in awareness and outrage. While this is not exactly a victory, and certainly not cause for celebration, it has provided visibility to a very real problem and strengthened advocacy efforts.

aclu-heard-know-your-rights-videos10. Marlee Matlin partners with ACLU and HEARD for #KnowYourRights videos:

To help deaf citizens better understand and protect their legal rights, award-winning Deaf actress Marlee Matlin teamed up with the American Civil Liberties Union and Helping Educate to Advance the Rights of the Deaf to create a series of videos. The videos represent a larger movement within the Deaf community for self-empowerment through education. The internet amplifies the power of minority voices, exposes injustice, and provides resources for assertive self advocacy!

MARK-VILLAVER-MOM-DANCE-BATTLE-deaf-129. Professional Dancer and His Deaf Mother Prove Music is for EVERYONE!

Mark Villaver, a hearing dancer, and his Deaf mother share their love of music and dancing in one of the most FUN videos of 2014! Some people mistakenly think deaf people can’t enjoy music. This couldn’t be further from the truth!

fcc-new-captioning-rules8. FCC Cracks Down on Captioning:

The internet has come to the forefront of the entertainment industry. Unfortunately, closed captioning was often neglected when providers made the technology leap; leaving deaf individuals without online access to programming. In 2014 deadlines were set which require providers to caption all shows and video clips, and guidelines were established to guarantee the quality of captions. Over the next few years, we will see all major video content providers moving toward accessibility. Additionally, airlines and other places of public accommodation are feeling increased pressure to provide equal access for deaf patrons.

deaf-med-student-wins-legal-battle-147. Deaf Med Student Wins Legal Battle

After a lengthy court battle, it was determined that devoted deaf med students have the same right to attend medical school as hearing students. We call this a 2014 victory. Hopefully this will lead to more hardworking deaf young people pursuing careers in the medical field.

the-tribe-deaf-movie-in-asl

6. “The Tribe” Indie Film About Deaf Students Wins Over Critics:

The film, which is all sign language without subtitles, was critically acclaimed at Cannes and has won a number of prestigious awards. The lack of captions serves to alienate hearing viewers– who are accustomed to the privilege of communication access– yet the film is engaging enough to keep all audiences along for the ride.

signs-deaf-restaurant-concept-toronto5. Signs Restaurant Opens in Toronto:

This fun concept for a restaurant creates a comfortable place for deaf diners; provides jobs for deaf food industry workers; and helps hearing people get a “taste” of what it’s like to be on the other side of the language barrier. The success of this endeavor may open the door for future deaf-focused businesses.

text-to-911-equal-access-deaf-hoh4. Text to 911 Rolls Out:

On August 8, 2014 the FCC adopted an order requiring wireless carriers and other text messaging providers to deliver emergency texts to 911 call centers. Equal access to emergency services was long overdue!

asl-rap-battle-jimmy-kimmel-live-173. ASL Rap Battle On Jimmy Kimmel Live:

This video instantly went viral because both deaf and hearing audiences love watching expressive ASL paired with hip hop beats. Sign language lends itself so well to the poetry and rhythm of raps. The two incredible interpreters skillfully turned spoken word into visual language, and Deaf performer Jo Rose Benfield wowed people with her enthusiastic interpretations.

deaf-super-heroes-a2. Deaf Superheroes Demonstrate the Power of Diversity:

Throughout pop culture history, superheroes have struggled against the odds to save the day. Until recently, however, superheroes have been notoriously privileged individuals— white and able-bodied— deaf-super-heroes-bwith very few deviations from the norm. In 2014, we saw diversity creeping into the fantasy world of good and evil when audiences were introduced to Deaf superheroes like Blue Ear and Superdeafy. These fictional heroes provide real life role models for Deaf children, demonstrating that deafness is only a minor obstacle to overcome on the way to greatness.

 

camp-mark-seven-happy1. Camp Mark Seven Goes Viral with “Happy” video:

If you haven’t seen this amazing upbeat video online, you must be living under a rock! Camp Mark Seven Deaf Film Camp  nearly broke the internet with their cheerful ASL rendition of Pharrell Williams smash hit “Happy.” Camp Mark Seven teaches young deaf filmmakers how to write, direct, and produce their own films; which helps integrate more deaf voices in pop culture and Hollywood. The video has millions of views online and made people all across America stop and smile. Haven’t seen it?Well what are you waiting for… Get Happy !

2014 was an impressive year for deafness in the media, and these are only a few of the many pop culture moments! Of course we still have a long way to go, but when Deaf Culture becomes more visible, Deaf issues start getting the attention they deserve. By amplifying the voices of the community, and highlighting the accomplishments of deaf individuals, we can help the world see that deafness is not a barrier– merely a small obstacle on the way to greatness!

Have a safe and happy New Year!

If you are interested in learning about Deaf culture and American Sign Language, I have extended a special deal on ASL training. From now until JANUARY 7, schedule 3 personal ASL lessons for only $150. Learn on your own time, at your own convenience. We can meet in person in NYC or via video chat. No matter what level your skills are, from beginner to fluency, we can work together to discover the beautiful silent world of ASL!

Working with Sign Language Interpreters: The DOs and DON’Ts

deaf-interpreter-faq-nycIf you do not regularly work with sign language interpreters, you may not know that there are certain rules and expectations. To get the most out of having an ASL interpreter present, it’s a good idea to educate yourself about what exactly an interpreter does, and how they facilitate communication. To avoid complicating the conversation, making the interaction uncomfortable, or even offending the Deaf individual, here are some basic guidelines to follow:

1.) DO: Research how to interact with a Deaf person; with and without an interpreter.
DON’T: Come to the meeting without any knowledge about deafness or Deaf communication.

2.) DO: Provide the interpreter as much information as possible, as far in advance as possible. This helps the interpreter be prepared and alert you to any potential ethical conflicts.
DON’T: Leave out important details about the assignment.

deaf-interpreter-faq-nyc3.) DO: Use the interpreter to engage deaf individuals in conversation. Remember– interpreters are there to facilitate a deaf/hearing interaction.
DON’T: Talk to the interpreter like the deaf person isn’t there.

3.) DO: Address the deaf person directly, using singular phrases. This is the person you are having a conversation with.
DON’T: Talk to the deaf person in the third person. The interpreter is interpreting exactly what you say. Saying “tell him/her…” just confuses the message.

5.) DO: Ask the deaf person to explain how the interpreting process works.
DON’T: Ask the interpreter about their job.

deaf-interpreter-faq-nyc-36.) DO: Talk directly to the deaf person and make respectful eye contact.
DON’T: Stare at the interpreter while having a conversation with a deaf person.

7.) DO: Ask the deaf person how to sign something if you are curious.
DON’T: Say obscene things to watch how the interpreter signs it.

8.) DO: Make sure your message is clear so the interpreter can communicate it.
DON’T: Speak to the deaf person like they are uneducated.

9.) DO: Be friendly to the interpreter, and utilize his/her professional services to speak with the deaf individual.
DON’T: Try to befriend the interpreter.

10.) DO: Plan for the interpreter to sit or stand near the person who will be speaking the most.
DON’T: Try to sit the interpreter next to the deaf individual, or put the interpreter behind other people. Deaf people need to actually see everything the interpreter does.

lydia-callis-interpreting-2014-nyc11.) DO: Speak as clearly as possible.
DON’T: Mumble, shout, or over-enunciate words thinking this will help the interpreter.

12.) DO: Ask the deaf person to explain something if you do not understand it.
DON’T: Ask the interpreter to explain what the deaf person means, cutting the deaf person out of the conversation.

13.) DO: Use sign language if you know ASL and it is appropriate.
DON’T: Start signing the alphabet, finger spelling, or signing random words when the interpreter is right there to facilitate communication.

14.) DO: Feel confident using an interpreter for private conversations.
DON’T: Worry that the interpreter can not be trusted. RID Certified interpreters are held to a professional code of conduct, which emphasizes ethics and client confidentiality.

15.) DO: Understand that although ASL interpreters aim to provide objective interpretations, they are Deaf culture allies and will advocate for the deaf client as needed.
DON’T: Ask interpreters for their personal opinions, ask them not to interpret something you said, or expect the interpreter to overlook any acts they view as oppressive toward the deaf consumer.

16.) DO: Be present and pay attention to the deaf person with whom you are communicating.
DON’T: Look at other people, at your phone, or out the window during conversation.

deaf-interpreter-faq-nyc17.) DO: Hire a professional, competent interpreter who has the appropriate credentials and background to facilitate effective communication. Look for Deaf or sign language interpreter owned agencies that specialize in deaf communication.
DON’T: Hire any interpreter you can find without doing any research on the agency that they work for.

18.) DO: Take an interest in Deaf culture and deafness. There is a wealth of information available on this topic– read some of the many books or articles that are available.
DON’T: Simply expect deaf people or sign language interpreters will take time out of their busy day to provide basic cultural education.

19.) DO: Know it may be your legal responsibility to cover the costs, as outlined by the Americans with Disabilities Act
DON’T: Expect the Deaf person to pay for the interpreter out of pocket

20.) DO: Learn what types of situations ASL interpreters are required for, and how to hire a high quality interpreter.
DON’T: Deny deaf people equal access to communication in your business, organization, or establishment.

If you are seeking a professional sign language interpreter in the New York City area, contact LCIS for a consultation. Coming from three generations of Deaf family members, I understand the true value of a culturally competent interpreter. My services emphasize the satisfaction of deaf consumers, and bridging the communication gap between the deaf and hearing worlds.