Top 10 Tips for Working with a Sign Language Interpreter

As more organizations strive to become more inclusive and accessible, the need for sign language interpreters has increased. For those unfamiliar with Deaf culture and working with interpreters, knowing how to communicate effectively can be challenging. Here are ten tips for working with a sign language interpreter:

Ask about the Deaf person’s interpreting preferences.

Before the meeting, ask the Deaf consumer about their preferred interpreting style and any specific needs they may have. All Deaf people are unique and may have distinct interpreting preferences.

Speak at your typical pace.

Sign language interpreters are well-trained professionals who can keep up with typical speaking patterns. However, if you are reading aloud or speaking quickly, be mindful of the interpreter and moderate your pace.

Provide visual aids and written materials.

Visual aids and written materials can help convey information more effectively. Provide them ahead of time to allow the interpreter to review and prepare.

Prepare for technical jargon and complex language.

If technical jargon and complex language are required for the meeting, send prep material beforehand so the interpreter can prepare.

Be aware of team interpreting dynamics.

Some meetings may require multiple interpreters to ensure accuracy and minimize fatigue. In these situations, be aware of the team dynamics and direct communication to the Deaf consumer, not the interpreters.

Use appropriate Deaf cultural norms.

Respectful communication includes understanding and using appropriate Deaf cultural norms, for example, maintaining direct eye contact during a conversation and using visual cues to signal the end of a conversation.

Allow time for interpretation.

Interpreters need time to convey information accurately. Allow pauses throughout the conversation, allowing the interpreter to process the communication accurately and effectively.

Speak to the Deaf consumer directly.

When speaking, address the Deaf consumer directly rather than the interpreter. This helps establish a direct communication link.

Respect confidentiality.

Interpreters adhere to a strict code of ethics, including confidentiality. Do not ask the interpreter to share personal information or disclose the content of the meeting.

Remember that interpreters interpret everything.

Do not ask the interpreter to omit anything. Their presence alone is enough to assume that the interpreter will interpret EVERYTHING.



Following these tips can create a more inclusive and accessible environment for Deaf consumers.

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