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How to Use a Sign Language Interpreter

You have been informed that your client is deaf and you have scheduled a sign language interpreter. This may be your first time working with a sign language interpreter. Below are some tips that will help make the process go smoother.

Before the Meeting

  1. Positioning: It is always best to ask the deaf consumer where they would like the interpreter to be positioned. In most cases it is as near to the main speaker as possible.
  2. Brief the interpreters about visual presentations, share handouts and notify them if special audio will be used (ex: speakerphone, etc.).

Conversing with a Deaf Person

  1. Speak as though the interpreter was not involved in the conversation at all. Address the deaf person directly. Do not yell or scream.
  2. Look directly to the deaf or hard of hearing person when speaking to them, not at the interpreter.
  3. Increase eye contact.
  4. In groups establish turn taking skills, so that the interpreter can keep up.

Interpreter's Job

  1. The mental process process takes time and a there may be a slight delay as the message passes from one language to another.
  2. Remember the interpreter will interpret everything that is said spoken or signed (even side conversations that can be heard).
  3. Remember: the interpreter is there to facilitate communication not to give his/her opinions, advice, etc.
  4. All sign language interpreters follow a professional code of conduct. Please visit

Common Misconceptions About Interpreters

  • The interpreter serves as a tutor/personal aide.
  • The interpreter might interject his or her opinions.
  • The interpreter knows Braille.