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Who Provides an Interpreter?

Federal law (Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act) generally requires an interpreter to be provided when it is necessary to ensure effective communication for a deaf or hard of hearing person. It is the agency, service or business that is responsible for payment for interpreting services.

Employers - All private employers with more than 15 employees, state and local government and federally funded private employers must provide an interpreter when it is necessary for effective communication unless it would cause an undue burden. For example, an interpreter should be provided for a deaf or hard of hearing person at a job interview or for staff training, but generally does not have to be available full time for the conduct of daily employment activities.

All state and local executive, legislative and judicial government agencies and nstrumentalities provide interpreters, including town boards and departments, police, jails, government licensed facilities, community mental health centers, area agencies, etc. However, an interpreter may not be necessary for a simple or brief communication such as setting up an appointment, where passing notes with a receptionist may be sufficient. One may be necessary for the actual appointment or event, e.g. interview of a deaf person by police or intake worker or speaking in support of an application for zoning permit.

Interpreters are provided in places that accommodate members of the public such as hospitals, doctors’ and lawyers’ offices, restaurants, hotels, day care centers, car dealers or other retail establishments. The interpreter is necessary for effective communication unless the entity can legitimately claim an undue burden. For example, a business would generally not have to provide an interpreter for a deaf customer, as the communications involved will be typically simple and brief. However an interpreter generally should be provided for a deaf person where relatively complex, lengthy, and/or serious matters will be discussed, such as vehicle purchases, loan closings, lawyer or doctor appointments.

Undue hardship refers to any accommodation that would be unduly costly, extensive, substantial, disruptive, or one that would fundamentally alter the nature or operation of the business, undue hardship varies depending on the circumstances. For example, a small business generally would not need an interpreter on a full or even part time basis in order to enable a deaf person to work at his or her business because it may be unduly costly (and also unnecessary), but would have to pay for an interpreter for an employment interview, orientation or staff meetings.

Public and private entities and service providers that are recipients of federal financial assistance have obligations to ensure effective communication with people who are deaf or hard of hearing under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794(a).

For more detailed information regarding the laws covering effective communication for the deaf and hard of hearing, please see "Your Rights and the Law".

Sources

US Dept of Justice

National Association of the Deaf

If you are from a state agency and you need to hire a sign language interpreter please see this page.

If you are from a private entity and you need to hire a sign language interpreter please see this page.

If you are a consumer and you need to hire a sign language interpreter please see this page.