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Frequently Asked Questions

Why do I need to get an interpreter? May I use volunteer interpreter? What are the costs? These are the most common questions asked, and this pages’ purpose is to provide you answers for the frequently asked questions or FAQs. If you see any questions not listed on here, please contact us and we will be more than happy to answer your question!

Why isn’t reading lips appropriate?2018-11-06T15:58:03-05:00

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. The speaker needs to have knowledge of how to communicate to be effectively lip read.

Why isn’t writing back and forth good enough?2018-11-06T15:55:20-05:00

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.

Why do I need an interpreter?2018-11-06T15:53:58-05:00

Sign Language Interpreters are professionals that provide communication access between signing and non-signing members of the community. Businesses, schools, medical facilities and organizations hire interpreters to ensure accurate and clear communication for appointments, events, and meetings. Interpreters are also familiar with Deaf culture and can minimize cultural misunderstandings, and they can provide guidance to improve communication access.

I had another Deaf client that could read lips and write well. Why isn’t that working for my other Deaf client?2018-11-06T15:59:00-05:00

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’.

Why can’t I use a family member?2018-11-06T16:00:05-05:00

The use of a family member as an interpreter is a common request. There are several reasons why using family is inappropriate. The main reason as it would effect a medical facility or place of business is the question of the family member’s skill. It is unknown the proficiency of the family member’s signing skills. The family member may not be familiar with the terminology of the setting, or maybe of an age that it simply isn’t appropriate for them to be in that setting. Professional sign language interpreters have experience in a wide range of settings, have passed tests asserting their skill, and can be held accountable for errors and omissions in their work. Using a family member puts the medical facility or business at risk for miscommunications, issues of safety, and medical errors.

Am I legally required to hire an interpreter?2018-11-06T16:04:41-05:00

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states that any place of business (regardless of profit or non-profit status) cannot discriminate against any individual by denying them unequal access to the services or events. In many instances for Deaf and Hard of Hearing community members, this means the business must hire a sign language interpreter at their own expense to provide equal access to communication. There are some exemptions. I recommend you consult a legal professional for additional information.

Are interpreting services tax deductible?2018-11-06T16:06:35-05:00

Yes. There are some tax benefits for businesses that hire interpreters. Please consult your tax professional for details.

Why do I need a team of two interpreters?2018-11-06T16:07:12-05:00

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.

How do I use a sign language interpreter?2018-11-06T16:07:44-05:00

The interpreter’s job is to facilitate communication between users of ASL and users of English. The interpreter will not give opinions, advice, or support to either party; however sometimes she may ask for clarification to understand what is being said. The interpreter will sit or stand opposite the deaf person and near the main speaker. When you are speaking, talk directly to the deaf person and not to the interpreter. The interpreter will watch the deaf person’s signs, and her response will generally be in first person tense. You may see the interpreter using available graphics or handouts to support her interpretation. If you have any questions or concerns, relay them to the interpreter. We are willing to work with everyone involved to meet any needs that arise.

How much notice is required to schedule an interpreter?2018-11-06T16:08:39-05:00

FIS Interpreting Service sets no absolute minimum on the amount of time required to request an interpreter. There is a limit based on the number of interpreters available at any given time, the amount of time required to contact the interpreter and the amount of time the interpreter needs to travel to the job site. In exceptional circumstances, interpreters have been provided with less than 30 minutes notice, however we appreciate as much notice as possible.

Where do professional interpreters work?2018-11-06T16:09:40-05:00

Interpreters work in a variety of settings and situations. Many interpreters work in private practice; they are self-employed. Others interpreters are salaried staff of an agency, institution, or corporation. Still others interpret in educational settings from pre-school to graduate school and any level in between. Interpreters work in settings as intimate as a private therapy session or as public as a televised address at a national political convention. The interpreter must be a versatile, flexible, skilled professional.

What is Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?2019-02-28T14:12:11-05:00

When Congress passed the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, it included Section 504 which forbade discrimination against persons with disabilities by programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance, which included virtually every institution of higher education, except the U.S. military academies and a few small religious schools. This was the first civil rights statute designed to prevent discrimination against persons with disabilities and was patterned after the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) was patterned after Section 504. It, too,requires that individuals with disabilities may not be excluded from participation in, or be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination by any institution or business which is subject to the ADA. The ADA does not require that the institution receive federal financial assistance.

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What does “a qualified interpreter” mean?2018-11-06T16:11:47-05:00

A qualified interpreter is someone who can interpret effectively, accurately, and impartially, both receptively and expressively, using any necessary specialised vocabulary. As the interpreter is usually the only person present with access to both languages, and therefore is the only person aware of mistakes or misunderstandings, it is essential that their skills and abilities are independently verified.

Why shouldn’t we use a staff member or a volunteer who has been taking some sign language classes?2018-11-06T16:12:52-05:00

The interpreting process is very different from casual signing. ASL has many idioms and idiosyncrasies, as all languages do. Along with manual signs, ASL relies heavily upon non-manual communication. Within the term of “Sign Language” there are four major signing modes that range from true ASL (American Sign Language) to PSE (Contact Signing), to SEE II (Signing Exact English) and CUED Speech. The deaf community is extremely diverse. The interpreter must be skilled in each of these areas to be able to match the signing style of the deaf consumer for effective communication to take place.

Several years of interactive training is required to achieve a level of proficiency to accurately interpret most situations. There are also different levels of state certification for interpreters which determine the types of assignments/situations they are professionally and legally capable of interpreting.

Liability Insurance is another serious issue one needs to consider before choosing to use a member of staff as opposed to a professional interpreter. For everyone’s protection, make sure you are dealing with a reputable agency that carries Professional Liability insurance on each of its interpreters.


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