What is American Sign Language Interpreting? 

How do you take a spoken message in a language based on sound and hearing, and turn it into the equivalent message in a language based on the physical: space, movement, and sight/touch? A professional interpreter, who has fluency in American Sign Language and has been trained to process spoken English into American Sign Language (ASL) does just that.

Sign language interpreting requires more technical ability and skills than just the ability to fingerspell or conduct a casual conversation in ASL. Because interpreting is a complex process that requires a high degree of linguistic, cognitive and technical skills, it is not appropriate to utilize an untrained individual as an interpreter in any setting. To ensure the accurate conveyance of a spoken message into a signed language requires fluency in both the spoken and signed language, as well as extensive education, training, and practical experience. Interpreters who are affiliated with the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) are also required to follow a strict professional code of conduct. These are the tenets of that code:

  • Interpreters adhere to standards of confidential communication.
  • Interpreters possess the professional skills and knowledge required for the specific interpreting situation.
  • Interpreters conduct themselves in a manner appropriate to the specific interpreting situation.
  • Interpreters demonstrate respect for consumers.
  • Interpreters demonstrate respect for colleagues, interns, and students of the profession.
  • Interpreters maintain ethical business practices.
  • Interpreters engage in professional development.

In addition to following these tenets which cover confidentiality, respect, ethics, skills, and development, many interpreters who work in confidential settings, such as schools, medical or legal environments are also bound by additional codes of confidentiality, such as HIPAA, Patient’s Bill of Rights, and the Parent’s Bill of Rights etc. For many reasons, family members, friends, or anyone who may know Sign but are not professional interpreters are not appropriate or acceptable substitutes for an objective professional interpreter.

*It is also worth noting that even if a family member IS a professional interpreter, they should not be interpreting for their relative or family member as it is an ethical violation of the RID Professional Code of Conduct.

Some Sign Language Interpreters may have additional skills in order to support a wider range of the Deaf/Hard of Hearing Community, consider Tactile Interpreting, Oral Interpreting, and CDI Team Interpreting.


Tactile Interpreting:

Interpreters facilitate effective communication for individuals who are deaf and blind, using touch to communicate spoken English into Tactile Sign. Conversely, they convert Tactile messages to English.


Oral Interpreting: 

Some deaf and hard of hearing people do not know Sign Language. This is not uncommon. For those individuals, it can be hard to read the lips of speakers for many reasons, e.g., accents, lisps, beard or mustaches, insufficient enunciation, etc. These individuals may request an oral interpreter, who will repeat, or “mouth” what is said so the words are clear and easy to read on the lips.


CDI Team Interpreting: 

In some instances, it may be necessary to utilize a team of interpreters, one of whom is a Certified Deaf Interpreter, or CDI. CDIs are deaf individuals themselves who are qualified through education and training to act as Deaf Interpreters. CDIs work in tandem with interpreters who are hearing. The hearing interpreter processes the information and outputs it into Sign Language. In turn, the CDI processes the Sign Language and outputs it into a simpler, clearer sign language. CDIs are often not exclusively utilized with individuals who are language deprived, or have minimal language skills. For example, when there are emergency announcements or broadcasts, CDIs are often used to ensure that the widest range of deaf viewers, regardless of language skills, are able to understand the emergency message that is being conveyed and follow directions provided for their safety.


Am I required to provide a Sign Language Interpreter?

Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) gives rights of equal access to places of public accommodation. These places include, but are not limited to, hotels, theaters, restaurants, lawyers’ offices, medical providers’ offices, banks, insurance agencies, museums, parks, libraries, day care centers, recreational programs, social service agencies and private schools. It covers both profit and non-profit organizations, regardless of size.

For persons who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing, compliance with the law to provide effective communication may include the provision of sign language interpreting. For further information, please see the section on our website pertaining to the ADA.


How do I request a Sign Language interpreter?

Please call (845) 452.3913 Ext. 102 to inquire about becoming a customer of the Mid-Hudson Interpreter Service.


How do I become a Sign Language Interpreter?

There are a number of colleges and universities offering Interpreter Training Programs that are recognized by the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID), a few of which are listed here.


Please see the following websites for further information:

National Association of the Deaf

Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf