Sign language interpreters at a live meeting can help eliminate communication barriers. If you plan to use an interpreter for a meeting, training, or class you can maximize the effectiveness by following some helpful tips and etiquette.
Attendee seating. If possible, use a semi-circular seating arrangement. This helps everyone see each other.
Sign language does not always have specific signs for specialized or technical words. Visual aids such as vocabulary lists, agendas, materials, notes, or handouts given to the interpreter and/or captionist prior to a meeting make for a more successful and accurate interpretation.
Clarify unique vocabulary, technical terms, acronyms, and jargon. If you have any questions about working with an interpreter, please speak to the interpreter before the meeting begins to discuss any questions you may have.
Be Aware of Lighting: Notify the DHH person and the interpreter/captionist when there is a need for special lighting (slide shows, movies, videotaping, etc.). Be aware that with the lights turned off, the DHH person may not be able to see the interpreter/captionist's screen or the speaker. Place the light on the interpreter and/or the captionist's screen in front of them if you must turn off the lights.
Work with the interpreter and/or Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) person to select the most effective communication to use.
It may also be helpful to meet with them beforehand to make all necessary arrangements.
Be mindful of the DHH visual tracking. Their eye gaze may not be on eye level toward you since they are looking at the interpreter and/or captionist, the board, their computer, etc. They may look like they are not paying attention to you.
Minimize movements: Be aware of those movements which will distract or block the DHH view of the interpreter, captionists screen, or your face (for speech-reading). For example, do not stand between the interpreter/captionist and DHH person; and do not talk while you are facing the board.
When using slides, please give DHH person a bit of viewing time to look at the slides/information and at the interpreters/captionist's screen. Please present at a slow, steady pace and check in with them to be sure they are finished with the current page and ready to move on.
There is typically a lag time between a speaker and the interpretation. As a result, responses and questions from the person who is DHH might be slightly delayed. Interpreters/Captionists might need to ask for clarification. The speaker and other participants should pause until the interpreter/captionist and DHH person finishes speaking/signing.
Speak one at a time in group situations. The interpreter/captionist is often slightly behind the conversation and it can be difficult for the DHH person to give input without seeming to interrupt the flow of natural turn-taking. Be sensitive to the situation. Choose someone to facilitate the group discussion and monitor that people are speaking one at a time. The speaker and other participants should raise their hand for turn-taking so the DHH person knows who is talking.
The interpreter needs processing time from English to ASL/ASL to English. Time is needed for a person who is DHH to see who is talking before the comments are interpreted. The speaker and other participants need to check and pause when the interpreter and the DHH person stops signing or voicing. Please note: The interpreter won’t voice right away when the DHH person signs.
Avoid words such as “this”, “that”, "here", "there" when referring to something being demonstrated. Instead, be specific and identify objects by name (noun, proper noun, or keyword). Give the location: bottom, top, middle of the slide or screen. Example: “Look at the upper right-hand corner at this math equation”, “line 21 at the bottom left”
After the Meeting: Debrief-Sometimes it is helpful to debrief with the interpreter and/or captionist afterward to see if there are any concerns, what could be improved, etc. If there is no time to meet, follow up with an email. Share notes after the meeting.