Sign Language Interpreters - Utilizing their Services

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This document contains miscellaneous information related to employment of the services of Sign Language interpreters.

See also: Quality of Sign Language Interpreters.

Interpreting Ethics

(Contributed by Christine Lange <[email protected]> at 16 Oct 1995.)

In the book, _Interpreting: An Introduction_, Nancy Fishberg explains that when the decision is made to involve and interpreter, the clients enter into an act of trust. They trust that the interpreter will be accurate and that the interpreter will admit or acknowledge when the situation requires skills, background, or preparation that he or she does not have. They trust that the interpreter will not bcome emotionally involved in the issues to the detriment of the interpretation. They trust that the interpreter will be discreet about the knowledge acquired during the interpretation or as a result of the interpreting situation.

People who perform interpretation and who violate the trust placed in them do a disservice not only to themselves but to the whole of this growing profession. Since the profession is relatively young, and most of the occasions for people meeting an interpreter on the job are not in the public eye, a single interpreting assignment is an opportunity for enhancing the lay person's view of interpreters and interpretation.

The Code of Ethics drawn up by the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, Inc. simply serves as a reminder of this trust, and as an encouragement for professional treatment of professional behavior. The following principles of ethical behavior protect and guide the interpreter/transliterator, the consumers (hearing and deaf/hoh), and the profession as well as ensures for all the right to communicate.

  1. Confidentiality - Interpreters shall not reveal information about any assignment, including the fact that the service is being performed. Even seemingly unimportant information could be damaging in the wrong hands. Therefore, to avoid this possibility, interpreters must not say anything about any assignment. In cases where meetings or information becomes a matter of public record, the interpreter shall use discretion in discussing such meetings or information. This includes information about name, gender, age, etc of the consumer, day of week, time of day, time of year the situation took place, location (including city state or agency), other people involved, and basically unnecessary specifics about the situation.
  2. Accuracy - The interpreter shall render the message faithfully, always conveying the content and the spirit of the speaker, using language most readily understood by the person(s) whom they serve. Interpreters are not editors and must transmit everything that is said in exactly the same way it was intended. This is especially difficult when the interpreter disagrees with what is being said or feels uncomfortable when profanity is being used. Inerpreters must remember that they are not at all responsible for what is said, only for conveying it accurately. If the interpreter's own feelings interfere with rendering the message accurately, he or she shall withdrawal from the situation.
  3. Impartiality - The interpreter shall not counsel, advise, or interject personal opinions. Just as interpreters may not omit anything which is said, they may not add anything to the situation, even when they are asked to do so by other parties involved. An interpreter is only present in a given situation because two or more people have difficulty communicating, and thus the interpreter's only function is to facilitate communication. He/she shall not become personally involved because in doing so, he/she accepts some responsibility for the outcome, which does not rightly belong to the interpreter.
  4. Proficiency - The interpreter shall accept assignments using discretion with regard to skill, setting, and the consumers involved. Interpreters shall only accept assignments for which they are qualified. However, when an interpreter shortage exists and the only available interpreter does not possess the necessary skill for a particular assignment, this situation should be explained to the consumer. If the consumers agree that services are needed regardless of their skill level, then the available interpreter will have to use his/her judgement about accepting or rejecting the assignment. Certain situations may prove uncomfortable for some interpreters and clients. Religious, political, racial or sexual differences, etc., can adversely affect the facilitating task. Therefore, an interpreter shall not accept assignments which he/she knows will involve such situations.

    Interpreters shall generally refrain from providing services in situations where family members, close personal or professional relationships may affect impartiality, since it is difficult to mask inner feelings. Under these circumstances, especially in legal and medical situations, the ability to prove oneself unbiased when challenged is lessened.

  5. Compensation for services - Interpreters shall rquest compensation for services in a professional and judicious manner. They shall be knowledgable about fees which are apropriate to the profession, and be informed about the current suggested fee schedule of the national organization. A sliding scale of hourly and daily rates has been established for interpreters in many areas. To determine the appropriate fee, interpreters should know their own level of skill, level of certification, length of experience, nature of the assignment, and the local cost of living index.
  6. Discreetness - Interpreters shall function in a manner appropriate to the situation. They shall conduct themselves in such a manner that brings respect to themselves, the consumers, and the national organization. The term 'appropriate manner' refers to: (a) dressing in a manner that is appropriate for skin tone and is not distracting and (b) conducting oneself in all phases of an assignment in a manner befitting a professional.
  7. Continuing Education - Intepreters shall strive to further knowledge and skills through participation in workshops, professional meetings, interaction with professional colleagues, and reading current literature in the field.

Salaries of Sign Language Interpreters


(Contributed by Maree Madden [email protected] at 7 Dec 1993.)

In Australia, rates of payment vary. For freelance interpreters who work for a State Deaf Society, the rates are usually A$15 (I think that's roughly US$10.20) per hour for Level 1 accreditation, A$20/hour (US$13.60) for Level 2 and A$25/hour (US$17) for Level 3. The "levels" relate to accreditation conferred by the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI).

Here at Griffith University interpreters are paid $18.75/hour, $21/hour and $25/hour respectively. Within the Technical and Further Education college system in Queensland (much like American Community Colleges), the rate of pay is a flat $25/hour, regardless of accreditation level.

In most places now, a two-hour minimum booking fee applies for all jobs. If a booking is made for a half- or full-day, a special half-daily or daily fee is charged.

Canada - Nova Scotia

(Contributed by David Maxwell [email protected] at 10 Dec 1993.)

In Nova Scotia, Canada, about $18/hr., but in other parts of Canada, up to $50/hr. You should contact RID in the USA or AVLIC in Edmonton for more information. Rates vary from province to province, from agency to agency, and from different governments. AVLIC stands for Association of Visual Language Interpreters of Canada. Good Luck!

Canada - Ontario

(Contributed by Paul Cowley [email protected] at 7 Dec 1993.)

Here in Ontario the "going rate" for freelance interpreters is $40.00/hr. with a two hour minimum plus expenses. A rate of $260/day is not uncommon.

Salaried interpreters start in the neighbourhood of $36,000 and range to $63,000.

Contract interpreters often receive $25.00/hr and are typically paid that rate for down time or non-interpreting time.


(Contributed by Stephanie Logan [email protected] at 7 Dec 1993.)

From my experience, certified interpreters can make anywhere between 8 dollars on up to 50 dollars an hour. There are also salaried positions to consider (i.e. university staff interpreting, governmental, etc.). The field is in such demand and most people will pay top dollar to contract your services.

USA - Chicago, Illinois

(Contributed by Jody Fritsch [email protected] at 7 Dec 1993.)

In the Chicago, Il, US area the rates vary from about 12.00 hr to 26.00 hr for a fully certified interpreter.

USA - Gallaudet University

(Contributed by Janet Lawrence [email protected] at 6 Dec 1993.)

Here at Gallaudet.. GIS pays certified interpreters with both the CI and their CT $26 dollars an hour. That is for freelance interpreters.

Interpreting classified meetings

I participate in classified meetings at work and need an interpreter. What can I do?


  1. Approach your coworkers and discuss together the problem and possible solutions.
  2. Make sure that other TEAM members are aware of your presence is a good first step.
  3. Request that the meeting be conducted in a formal slow manner (i.e. without ten people talking at one time) to make it easier for you to follow the conversation.
    • Once the meeting starts, only one person talks at a time.
    • Each person raises their hand before speaking so you know who is speaking and where to look.
    • Make extensive use of whiteboards and notes.
    • Ensure that ALL TEAM members are provided with an overview BEFORE the meeting starts, so if you happen to get lost, someone can point to your agenda and tell what is being discussed.
    • No side conversations during the meeting.
    • Do not put anyone down for speaking their views.
  4. Hopefully, the efforts being made will improve the conduct of meetings for the entire team, not just for you.

(Contributed by Nicholas Farinacci <[email protected]> at 1993.)

Another solution is to have someone else take notes for the deaf person (CAN - Computer Assisted Notetaking - could be helpful for this purpose).

The advantage is that it'll not be as difficult to find someone who has clearance and can do the job (a secretary, for example).