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Sign Language Interpretation FAQ'sFrequently Asked Questions

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When do I need an interpreter?

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)Usually, a person who is Deaf or hard of hearing will notify the Doctor, employer, or business of their communication needs after scheduling an appointment or meeting. An interpreter should be present for all lengthy and complex exchanges of information. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires accommodations for persons with a disability and the use of an interpreter is one such accommodation.

Why can't I use a family member or a friend who signs?

Although many family members and friends possess some basic sign skills they rarely have the proficiency of a certified interpreter. Even if they are skilled communicators, they may be too emotionally involved to interpret "effectively, accurately and impartially" as required by the law. Using an interpreter from SLIS also alleviates the problem of maintaining confidentiality.

Is writing notes an acceptable alternative?

American Sign Language and English are two separate languagesWritten notes will suffice only if the person is fluent in written English. American Sign Language and English are two separate languages with different grammar and syntax. Relying on written communication can lead to misunderstandings that can be detrimental in medical, legal, or business situations.

Can't all Deaf people read lips?

Only 30% of English is readable on the lips. Prediction plays an important part in lip reading, so if the parties are familiar with each other and are talking about familiar topics, lip reading may be appropriate for some Deaf consumers.

However, there are several factors, such as the clear enunciation of the speaker, absence of facial hair, lighting, rate of speech and accents that can affect the success of lip reading. Sometimes Oral translators are needed for people who are proficient lip readers for group situations or presentations.

Does the Law say I must have an interpreter?

U.S. Department of Justice sealThe Rehabilitation Act of 1978 required "reasonable accommodation" for persons with disabilities seeking services from any federally funded program. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 expanded the requirement of appropriate accommodations for persons with disabilities to include most other entities. An interpreter is one such accommodation. For more information, contact the Department of Justice.


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