Providing ASL Interpreting Services for Funerals and Similar Services in Massachusetts & Other Parts of New England

Funerals are stressful times for families.  During these stressful times, guidance from experienced professionals can make things go much more smoothly.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that places of public accommodation provide equal access to communications (e.g. funeral ASL interpreters).  Many of these places (including funeral homes) are specifically listed in Section III-1.2000 Public accommodations, in the ADA:

III-1.2000 Public accommodations. The broad range of title III obligations relating to “places of public accommodation” must be met by entities that the Department of Justice regulation labels as “public accommodations. ” In order to be considered a public accommodation with title III obligations, an entity must be private and it must —


Lease to; or


a place of public accommodation.

What is a place of public accommodation? A place of public accommodation is a facility whose operations —

Affect commerce; and

Fall within at least one of the following 12 categories:

… (section deleted for brevity)

6) Service establishments (e.g. , laundromats, dry-cleaners, banks, barber shops, beauty shops, travel services, shoe repair services, funeral parlors, gas stations, offices of accountants or lawyers, pharmacies, insurance offices, professional offices of health care providers, hospitals);

… (section deleted for brevity)

This guide is to help the funeral service providers in obtaining funeral ASL interpreters for members of the family who will be attending the service(s).


First Recommendations

It is recommended that your first interview with the family include the question, “Will there be anyone present who would need a sign language (ASL) interpreter?”

This is so that services can be requested as early as possible.  With more advance notice, it is much easier to find an interpreter who is available and qualified for this assignment.

An interpreter should be provided for all of the parts of the service(s) – in the Funeral home, and the gravesite service, if there is one.  Some families may keep the gravesite service more private, so if the person needing an interpreter is not in the immediate family, then the interpreter may not be needed for the gravesite service.

Note that the services will be billed to the funeral home.  By law, the cost cannot be passed on to the family.


The Process

After the family confirms that they need an interpreter, your next step is to contact Partners Interpreting:

We would then send you our Terms & Conditions; this is an electronic document that outlines what services we provide, and the rates for these services.  This document must be signed before we begin searching for a funeral ASL interpreter.  We suggest that you be sitting at your computer when you call, so you can sign it immediately while on the phone; you will then be transferred to our scheduling team.

The scheduling team would then need to know:

  • Time, date, location of the service(s)
  • Name of the Funeral home or service provider
  • The name of the deaf client, if possible; as we are the premier provider of interpreting services all over New England, there is an excellent chance that if the deaf person is local, we have worked with them in the past.  As a result, we would have a list of their preferred interpreters, and that would help us find the most appropriate match.

You will get an email confirming the request.  When the request is filled, you will get another email with the name of the funeral ASL interpreter.  The interpreter will get all of the details about the assignment.  When the job is completed, an invoice will be sent.


Our goal is to serve you as you serve the families, by providing communication access to those who need ASL interpreters.



Q: How many interpreters will be needed for the assignment?

A: Typically, ASL interpreters work in teams of two if an assignment lasts over two hours.  This is so they can switch off, and maintain the quality of the interpretation.  This is industry best practice; however, it all depends on the nature of the assignment.  The challenge is that it is sometimes difficult to know in advance how intense a given assignment might be.  You should discuss the details of the funeral/memorial service with the scheduler at the agency, to determine your needs.

For example, you might say to the scheduling person, “The service will be approximately 30 minutes.  We will then go to the cemetery, which is 10 minutes away, and there will be an additional graveside service lasting approximately 15 minutes.”  For this type of assignment, a single interpreter would be appropriate.

A different service might follow a different schedule.  “The memorial service schedule will have approximately 10 individuals, each talking for 5 to 10 minutes.  There will then be an additional religious service, lasting approximately 30 minutes.  After this, we will depart to the burial site, and there will be an additional service; some people may want to share additional thoughts at this time.  This could last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour and a half.”  For this type of assignment, obviously two interpreters would be required.

The scheduler will help you determine whether you need one or two funeral ASL interpreters, and the total time frame that the interpreter is needed for.  You should also discuss any other details with the scheduling person, including expected attire. With sufficient advance notice, the interpreting agency should be able to procure an interpreter for you; again, the more time you can give them, the better the chances.


Q: What are “preferred interpreters”?

A: When Deaf clients have a preference for which interpreters they want to work with, they can inform the agency of their list of preferred interpreters.  When the scheduler is trying to match up interpreters with the assignment, they will try those interpreters first, if they are available.  If they are not, then we continue our search.

Deaf clients also may have a “do not use” list of interpreters – and we would of course honor this list as well.


Q: How will I know if an interpreter has actually been booked?

A: When an interpreter is found, you will automatically be sent an email from the scheduling office, which will include the details of the assignment (so that you can make sure they are correct) as well as the name(s) of the interpreters.

The interpreters will receive details of the assignment.  If you want the interpreters to contact you in advance of the assignment (for whatever reason) then please tell the scheduler, so that they can put additional instructions into the system.


Q: Will I need to provide any materials to the interpreter before the assignment?

A: It is helpful to provide the funeral ASL interpreter with assistance before the assignment, if there are difficult-to-spell or foreign-sounding names, places, or other jargon that will be discussed.  This could simply mean meeting with the interpreter for a few minutes when they first arrive (before they start).  We highly recommend that you definitely confirm the pronunciation and spelling of the family names, as well as the names of anyone who will be speaking at the service.


Q: How is billing handled for this?

A: After the completion of the assignment, Partners Interpreting will send you an invoice.