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Interpreter Resources: Post-Secondary Interpreters

This guide points to different types of interpreting and library resources.

What Does a Post-Secondary Interpreter Do?

The image is from the NTID Job Fair and shows two signing people and a third person watching around Raytheon, one of the companies recruiting. This information is from the Interpreting for Post-Secondary Deaf Students document by Gary Sanderson, Linda Siple, and Bea Lyons.
Laws. Under the ADA and Section 504, interpreters are considered an “auxiliary aid or service.” Post- secondary educational institutions must “furnish appropriate auxiliary aids and services where necessary to ensure effective communication with individuals with disabilities”  28 C.F.R. § 36.304. See also, 28 C.F.R. § 35.160.  The ADA regulations define a “qualified interpreter” as “an interpreter who is able to interpret effectively, accurately, and impartially both receptively and expressively, using any necessary specialized vocabulary” 28 C.F.R. §35.107, 28 C.F.R. § 36.104.
Sign Language Interpreters. The role of the interpreter within the postsecondary setting is to facilitate communication between deaf and hearing individuals throughout the educational environment, both academic and extracurricular. This link plays a major role in the success of most college students who are deaf.  The most common type of interpreter is one who works between English and sign language. The interpreter listens to the spoken English message of the instructor and other students, and then signs the message to the deaf student. There are two common forms of interpreting practiced at the postsecondary level: transliterating and interpreting. Transliterators listen to the spoken message and sign it in a way that closely approximates English. The second type are interpreters who listen to spoken English, then interpret it into American Sign Language (ASL) which has its own grammar and syntax.
However, there is a second dimension to the interpreter’s task. Many deaf students do not have speech that is intelligible to most listeners; others may have somewhat intelligible speech but feel uncomfortable using it publicly. Instead, they may choose to express themselves using sign language, while relying on the interpreter to translate the signed message into spoken English. Interpreters are trained to voice interpret for these students, and to do so as accurately as possible.
Oral Interpreters. Not all deaf or severely hard of hearing students can and/or choose to use sign language interpreters in the classroom. Some favor speechreading and/or the use of assistive listening devices (Warick et al., 1997).  Oral interpreters are
used primarily by deaf and severely hard of hearing students who rely mostly on their own speech and speechreading skills, supported in most instances by personal hearing aids, or, increasingly, by cochlear implants. The student reads the lips of the
interpreter who has been specially trained to articulate speech silently and clearly. An oral interpreter is particularly important in
situations where the oral student cannot speechread his/her instructor. This can be for a number of reasons, including the instructor’s speaking rate or accent, and in situations where there is considerable student participation. Parenthetically, it should be noted that deaf students often cannot follow the rapid changes in speakers that occur in many classes,because they are not aware of where to look for the speaker.
Cued Speech interpreter.  The Cued Speech interpreter resembles the oral interpreter except that he/she uses a hand code, or cue, to represent each speech sound. Some deaf students begin to use this system within their families at an early age and become very proficient in its use for communication.
Interpreter for Deaf-Blind individuals. This interpreter usually referred to as a deaf-blind interpreter, assists those who have both limited or no hearing and limited or no sight. There are several deaf-blind interpreting techniques, but most frequently the deaf-blind individual receives the message by placing his/her hands on top of the interpreter's hands and following the interpreter’s hand movements.
Qualified versus certified. Another critical issue is the qualifications of the interpreters an institution uses to provide services.
Notice that the ADA does not use the term “certified”, but rather uses the term  “qualified” which encompasses the uses of specific terminology, an issue that arises often in the postsecondary environment. This is an important distinction. Certification is some evidence of qualification, but there are many interpreting situations for which a certified interpreter may not be qualified. Court
interpreters are highly skilled people, but many of them would not feel qualified in a medical or computer setting.  Still, other interpreters may not be as highly certified, but more than adequate for a particular interpreting assignment.  Matching the skill of the interpreter with the needs of the student and the course being taught is very important to the provision of effective communication.
Qualifications.  Graduation from an interpreter preparation program. Most, if not all, of these programs, are an associate or baccalaureate degree programs. Interpreters may also hold national certification from either the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, Inc.(RID) or the National Association of the Deaf (NAD). Other qualifications include credit for life experiences, such as growing up with sign language as a first language, combined with substantial real-world interpreting experience and training.
Certification. On the national level, certification of sign language and oral interpreters is conducted by two organizations: RID and NAD.  Each certification is an indication that the interpreter has been assessed by professional peers according to a nationally-recognized standard of competence.  A valid certificate documents that the interpreter has met or exceeded this national standard, has met all requirements for membership in the organization and adheres to a Code of Ethics governing ethical and professional behavior. It is suggested that people responsible for hiring interpreters, and who use certification as the main criterion for determining qualification, hire interpreters who hold a certificate from the following lists. Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) currently awards the following interpreting certificates:
CI     (Certificate of Interpretation)
CT    (Certificate of Transliteration)
CDI  (Certified Deaf Interpreter)
OIC  (Oral Interpreting Certificate)
SC:L (Specialist Certificate: Legal)
The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) awards the following certificates that indicate proficiency levels. (Stopped 2005).
Proficiency Level 1 (novice)
Proficiency Level 2 (intermediate)
Proficiency Level 3 (generalist)
Proficiency Level 4 (advanced)
Proficiency Level 5 (master)
Extracurricular Activities. There is general agreement that college students should be encouraged to participate in both academic and extracurricular activities. Yet, while it is clear that interpreting services are invaluable to most deaf students (and their instructors) in their course-work, many institutions are reluctant to provide interpreting services for extracurricular events. The law requires support for interpreting in some instances, but not others.
Course-connected support. Under the law, extra-classroom activities for which interpreting services are mandated hinge on whether these activities are required for course completion. These might include student/faculty meetings, field work, observations, plays, volunteer work, student teaching assignments, and off-campus classes.
Non course-connected support. Every effort should be made to meet with the ADA and 504 Compliance Officer on-campus, if in fact there is one, to establish a dialogue on how extracurricular interpreting needs can be covered. It is clearly the deaf student’s responsibility to make known the fact that he/she plans to attend an extracurricular activity if seeking interpreting services. The major issue is usually not whether interpreting services should be provided for extracurricular activities, but who is responsible for paying for
the service. Many situations will require the cooperation of several campus organizations and departments. A campus-wide policy on interpreting services should be developed and disseminated that includes how to request an interpreter for an event, who pays, how to advertise interpreting services, and time frames necessary for advance scheduling. The following are some of the programs and
activities for which policies and procedures for delivery of interpreting services, as well as payment,should be developed, preferably in advance.
The Student Health Center.  A close relationship needs to be cultivated between the department responsible for providing support services and the Student Health Center.  Scheduling payment of interpreters in a medical setting can be difficult. It is difficult to predict how long a deaf student and his/her interpreter may have to wait for a 1 p.m. appointment if the physician has an emergency and his/her appointments are backed up.
Student Government activities.  This includes all chartered clubs and organizations on-campus if they are supported through student fees.
The Counseling Center.  If all students are eligible to receive personal counseling, these services are to be free to deaf students like all others.
Fraternities and sororities.  These organizations sponsor activities “around the clock.” A clear understanding needs to be reached with the local chapter and/or the national office of the fraternity or sorority.
Campus theater productions.  Students and community members may attend, in which case interpreting costs may need to be included in the productions’ budgets.
Visiting speakers or productions. The planners should be made aware during the negotiations that interpreters may be required.
Commencement.  For graduating students, the Commencement budget may absorb the interpreting costs, or the funds may come from the general interpreting fund. There may also be times when deaf parents of hearing students attend college activities such as Commencement. In that event, funding will need to be determined.
Campus-wide events.  Many times a college will want to provide interpreting as a goodwill gesture in case a deaf student participates.


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