Working with the Deaf | Importance of Certified Trained Interpreters

Nov 27, 2018

Approximately one million people in the US are functionally deaf, and nearly 10 million people are hard of hearing. What does that mean for your organization? 

Simply put, failing to have a system in place to communicate with non-hearing customers puts you at risk for losing their business. It may also cause you to conflict with Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires businesses and nonprofits that serve the public to “communicate effectively with people who have communications disabilities.”

Communicating with the Deaf Community

So how do Deaf people communicate? Most people first think of American Sign Language (ASL), but not all Deaf people know ASL; estimates of ASL users vary from 100,000 to 2 million in the United States, and many adults who become deaf late in life never learn the language.  As a result, when ASL interpreters first meet a person that is deaf or hard of hearing, they pay close attention to assess which methods the person uses to communicate. These Include:

American Sign Language (ASL)

American Sign Language is the official language of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community in the United States, and all interpreters for the community are trained in it. ASL has its own grammar and syntax, like any verbal language.

English Sign Language/ Signed English

English Sign Language is not an actual language; rather, it places ASL signs in the same order as English grammar and syntax to help the Deaf and Hard of Hearing learn English.

Rochester Method

The Rochester Method resulted from an 1878 experiment by Zenas Westervelt, a deaf educator from the New York School for the Deaf in Rochester, NY. Westervelt intended to replace sign language and encourage English-only communication through manual spelling.  For a time, teachers and students were restricted to using the Rochester Method to communicate. However, by the 1960s, most schools had abandoned it; teachers and students alike refused to use it due to its tedious and time-consuming nature.

Home Signs

More than 90% of Deaf children are born to hearing parents, and as many as 88% of hearing parents with one Deaf child may not learn ASL. To communicate with the Deaf individual in the hearing household, families often invent home signs, which naturally differ from family to family. As a result, these signs are often incomprehensible to those who understand ASL. The use and spread of sign language may be limited if Deaf children do not receive language acquisition in early development.

What Makes a Qualified Interpreter for the Deaf

Make sure they have:

  • A RID (Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf) national certification like NIC (National Interpreter Certification).
  • A state license (If required). For example, the Arizona Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing license is required to interpret in Arizona.
  • Five years of medical interpreting experience.

How Voiance can Assist Your Staff

Our ASL interpreters are certified, trained and continuously monitored for quality – ready to assist your staff when needed. Chances are your staff has encountered someone from the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community. With Voiance, you can equip them to handle these encounters with excellence.


Contact Melynda Minor, Senior Sales Consultant to learn how Voiance can assist your business.

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Call Melynda at
(520) 404-6279
Email Melynda at
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Topics: Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Voiance

Written by Ashley Harris

CyraCom/Voiance researcher, author, and editor.