Hiring an Interpreter

A young man with purple sweatshirt signs with his hands.
Need to choose and schedule an interpreter in response to a disability accommodation request? While this tip focuses on American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters, many of the tips shared here also apply to other cultural and language interpreters.
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The 3 Things You Need to Know

Are you unsure of what to do when someone requests an interpreter? Here are three bits of information that will allow everyone to breathe a little easier when a request for an interpreter comes in:

  1. People know what they need.
  2. People know who they like.
  3. Interpreters (and the agencies who hire them) know what the interpreter needs.

Step OneHave a conversation with the person requesting an interpreter.

Confirm what kind of interpreter they are requesting and if the interpreter needs any specialized skills (use the drop down menu at the top to learn more about different interpreter specialties). Ask if they have any preferred interpreters or agencies. People who use interpreters usually have a wealth of experiences to draw from.

Step Two: Have a conversation with the agency or interpreter so that they get all the information they need to show up and do a good job.

They will ask you basic questions about the event (time, date, location, purpose, how many people are requesting an interpreter) to prepare the interpreter. They might also ask for an idea of the event context and content so that the interpreter is ready with accurate interpretations of phrases or ideas that might come up.

Most of the time, scheduling an interpreter only takes two quick conversations.

Do you need to respond to an accommodation request besides interpreters? Click over to June's Access Tip on Accommodation Requests for tips on other kinds of accommodations. 

Interpreters for Community Events

What if we are among those very cool people who proactively schedule interpreters to make our events accessible? Let’s explore what we might think about when scheduling an interpreter to make an event accessible and not waiting for an individual request.

Ways of interpreting and other access considerations

Learn more about the ways interpreting happens.

Proactively scheduling American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters, along with other accommodations for effective communication, is necessary to make workshops, events and public meetings accessible to the public. This is especially true when organizers are not requesting RSVPs and do not expect to connect with attendees in advance. Check out this guide from the City of San Francisco for more tips on hosting accessible events.

Whether interpreter scheduling is proactive or responsive, it is always important to include an access statement on your outreach materials so that individuals know what access will be available and who to get in touch with if they want to request or confirm an accommodation.

How to Find an Interpreter

Interpreting is like any other service—there are many options. You can use internet searches (avoid the ads and look for local agencies), resources from your workplace, referrals from Deaf-led organizations, and experiences from your friends and colleagues who have used interpreters to find one that meets your skill and schedule needs.

Yes, we’ve got an interpreter! What do I need to know?


Check out these tips for working with an interpreter.

And learn a bit about Deaf Culture. Working inter-culturally is complex and having a bit of background knowledge on Deaf culture will support you to relax and settle into an effective, enjoyable conversation more quickly.

ASL & American Deaf Culture

It is impossible to share the wealth of an entire culture and community here. Please use these links to get yourself started on the journey of learning about the values, traditions, and history of American Deaf Culture and Deaf Community.

Learning about ASL & Deaf Culture and hearing privilege from Deaf people is essential.

American Sign Language (ASL) is a unique language. It is culturally and grammatically different from spoken languages, and it is deeply connected to Deaf Culture. American Sign Language is not the only sign language. Different countries have different sign languages, and there are regional and dialect differences. 

There are Deaf songs, poetry, and stories (The previous link is a signed and captioned version of the story The Deaf Tree. Find a text version of The Deaf Tree here). These unique expressions of art and culture are created and shared by the Deaf community.

Explore the values, history, and traditions of American Deaf Culture.  Ready for more? Dive deep into Deaf history and Culture with these resources from Gaulladet. Enjoy!


ADA Title II Policy Analyst

Sue Minder