A Deaf Interpreter is a specialist who provides interpreting, translation, and transliteration services in American Sign Language and other visual and tactual communication forms used by individuals who are Deaf, Deaf-Blind, and Hard of Hearing. Deaf Interpreters bring enhanced expertise to unique interpreting situations and may work in tandem with hearing interpreters.
Deaf Interpreters have a distinct set of formative linguistic, cultural, and life experiences that enables nuanced comprehension and interaction in a wide range of visual language and communication forms influenced by region, culture, age, literacy, education, class, and physical, cognitive, and mental health. These experiences coupled with professional training give Deaf interpreters the ability to affect successful communication across all types of interpreted interactions, both routine and high risk.
DIs use a variety of assessments, strategies, and adaptations to ensure full communication. DIs are commonly assigned for Deaf-Blind consumers, stage/platform interpreting (conference, TV media and news) and in some cases when there’s a critical need for communication and cultural accuracy due to a consumer’s unique or limited language skills. Deaf interpreters have the most linguistic skill in American Sign Language (ASL) and the best cultural connection to the Deaf consumer.
Following industry standards and best practices, PI will encourage and advocate for a Deaf Interpreter team when appropriate. Sometimes DIs work alone and other times they work as part of a team. The team consists of one Deaf interpreter and one hearing interpreter or two DIs and two hearing interpreters, depending on the length of the assignment.
A DI may be appropriate any time the cultural and linguistic skills that only a DI can offer are desired. Some examples include when the Deaf consumer:
- Uses idiosyncratic, non-standard signs or gestures referred to as “home signs.”
- Uses a foreign signed language or tactile signed language.
- Has unique or limited communication skills due to language deprivation and/or cognitive delays.
- Is in a high stress, risky, or emotionally draining situation. Some examples include mental health assessments, legal matters, loss of a loved one, physical limitations, or receiving bad news.
- Requests a DI.