Interpreter Ethics

The Use of a Sign Language Interpreter*



Employees who are deaf or hard of hearing often require accommodations so they can understand and learn in their job. Some individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing prefer communicating through sign language as opposed to writing, lip reading, or if the individual possesses residual hearing, possibly using a device to amplify sounds.

When sign language is the preferred form of communication, the services of a sign language interpreter may be arranged for the employee as a reasonable and useful accommodation to help them learn and understand the requirements of their jobs. Therefore, it is important for both employees who are deaf or hard of hearing and those they work directly with to know how to utilize the services of an interpreter effectively.
Effective use of interpreting services requires an accurate understanding of the interpreter’s role and responsibilities as well as your own role and responsibilities as a co-worker when an interpreter is present. Listed below is a brief definition of the interpreter’s job, followed by suggested guidelines that can help make interactions with your Deaf co-worker go smoothly for you, the interpreter, and most importantly, for your Deaf co-worker. For more information on interpreting in the work environment, please contact HIS Sign at or by calling 877-886-8879.


A sign language interpreter is a trained professional who facilitates communication and conveys all auditory and signed information so that both hearing and deaf individuals may fully interact.
The interpreter is bound by a code of ethics, which includes keeping all material interpreted strictly confidential. In addition, interpreters are to maintain the integrity of the message, always conveying the content and spirit of the speaker. The interpreter’s mission is to facilitate communication; he/she should neither add nor delete any information at any time. Because of the specific nature of the interpreter’s role, it is important not to ask the interpreter for his/her opinion or to perform any tasks other than interpreting.
It is also important to keep in mind that sometimes, depending on the length of the class, more than one interpreter will be present. Typically, any class over two hours requires the services of two interpreters who will take turns interpreting, usually at 20-minute intervals.


Helpful Hints to Remember Before Using Interpreting Services:

• Acknowledge Interpreter’s Role. Remember that the interpreter is here to facilitate communication for both the Deaf Consumer and the Hearing Consumer. He/she should not be asked to run errands, fulfill administrative requests, or interact in a personal conversation with the Hearing Consumer. He/she should not participate in any way independent of the Deaf Consumer or express personal opinions.
• Use Captioned Materials. Captioned films or videotapes are strongly recommended to allow the student direct visual access to the information. However, if you are planning to show a movie or use other audiovisual materials without captioning, inform the interpreter beforehand so that arrangements can be made for lighting and positioning.