Frequently Asked Questions


Answers to frequently asked questions

Why do I need to hire an interpreter? Why can’t the Deaf person use a family member to interpret for them?

The ADA makes it illegal for any organization open to the public to discriminate against people with disabilities. In order to provide equal access, effective communication for people who are deaf or hard of hearing must be provided. This includes qualified interpreters. 

A qualified interpreter is neutral and passive, which may be difficult for family and friends. It is vital the consumer receive all the information they need, even when language is a barrier. With “effective communication” as the base requirement by law, an ASL interpreter is often the most straightforward path to fulfilling that obligation.

Who is responsible for providing an interpreter? Does insurance cover the cost of an interpreter?

It is up to the institution to provide and pay for ASL interpreters. Most insurances will not cover interpreters, even when they are necessary. The consumer is not responsible for paying. Providing interpreters is considered a cost of doing business or part of overhead expenses.

How do I prepare to have an ASL interpreter for my event/appointment? 

When scheduling an ASL interpreter, be prepared to provide a few things, such as the time, date, location, and purpose of the event or appointment. Additionally, indicate whether the interpreter is for an audience or specific consumer(s), providing names wherever possible. If available, send along any materials that will be used for the event – presentations, slides, handouts, names/titles of any speakers, drafts of speeches, lists of common terminology and acronyms. The more material the interpreters have to prepare, the higher quality the interpreting will be. 

On the day of the event/appointment, identify a place for the interpreter to sit/stand with a clear line of sight to the deaf consumer. Speak at your normal tone and pace, directly to the person who is deaf. Be aware the interpreter will interpret everything said – don’t ask the interpreter to refrain from communicating something you say, and avoid phrases such as “ask him” or “tell her.” Try to avoid personal conversations with the interpreter while they are working – they are there to facilitate communication between you and the audience/deaf participants only. Lastly, if you’re ever unsure of the appropriate way to proceed, don’t hesitate to ask!

How many interpreters will I need? Why do I need a team of interpreters? Why do I need a Certified Deaf Interpreter?

In many situations, a single ASL interpreter is sufficient and appropriate for effective communication. However, depending on length and complexity, a team of interpreters may be required. Generally speaking, any event over an hour necessitates a team of interpreters for sustained, accurate interpretation. A team of interpreters will arrange amongst themselves to support and switch off as necessary, ensuring a seamless experience for deaf attendees.

In some cases, a team consisting of an ASL interpreter and a Certified Deaf Interpreter (CDI) is most appropriate for the circumstances. A Certified Deaf Interpreter (CDI) has key cultural knowledge and expertise in their own language. For Deaf/HOH individuals with high visual orientation or non standardized sign language, a CDI’s knowledge is crucial to ensure that all information is being completely relayed and understood by both parties. 

What is CART? How does CART work?

Captioning Access Realtime Translation (CART) refers to the continuous output of captions on a screen. A captioner with access to audio input transcribes exactly what is being said in the setting. Captions can be accessed on a handheld device like a phone or laptop, or they can be displayed on a big screen at the front of the venue.  

Why should I hire a CART captioner? Who uses captions? Why can’t we just provide ASL interpreters for everyone? Are auto-generated captions sufficient?

Automatic captions do not meet the standards required by the ADA. CART providers are professionals trained to output accurate, high quality captions. A live captioner has an error rate of less than 2%. Automatic captioning programs are run by artificial intelligence and have an error rate of up to 60%. 

Everyone can benefit from captions, especially people who have hearing loss but do not use sign language. For example, those who have traumatic hearing loss or age-related hearing decline still rely on English in their day to day lives. Access to captions for this and other populations are vital.