Deaf Interpreter: Effective Practices Research Findings

During the 2005-2010 grant cycle, the Deaf Interpreter work team conducted investigations on Deaf Interpreter (DI) practice:

    • We convened an expert group of DI practitioners, researchers, and educators.
    • We undertook a review of the literature on the Deaf Interpreter.
    • We conducted focus groups comprising 26 Deaf Interpreters.
    • We conducted focus groups comprising 12 DI Educators.
    • We collected data through a national survey including 298 Deaf Interpreter respondents.
    • We evaluated a DI training program.
    • We conducted a review of the RID Certified Deaf Interpreter test and made recommendations to RID on necessary steps to improve the process for Deaf test-takers.

The following are key findings from the investigations we conducted:

  • Deaf Interpreters tend to share common characteristics, in particular the formative “Deaf-World” experiences that comprise their ethics, language, and cultural fluency.
  • Deaf Interpreter competencies differentiate from those of hearing ASL-English interpreters in three key areas: 1) Consumer Assessment, 2) Language, Communication and Culture, and 3) Interpreting Practice. These competencies should be built upon a foundation of generalist competencies required of all interpreters, and specialty training for such areas as healthcare, legal, etc. must be pursued by Deaf Interpreters who wish to practice in these realms.
  • While Deaf Interpreters work across the full gamut of interpreting venues, the most common are social services and healthcare (i.e. medical & mental health).
  • Deaf Interpreters work primarily in a combination of ASL and visual gestural communication.
  • More than half of Deaf Interpreters provide services using close vision and tactual signing with individuals who are Deaf-Blind.
  • Most Deaf Interpreters work in tandem with a hearing interpreter; however 29% work alone with certain consumers and in certain settings.
  • Some of the barriers to effective DI education programming include the lack of work opportunities, attitudes of hearing interpreters towards working with Deaf interpreters, Deaf people becoming interpreters without a solid understanding of the linguistics of their own language, the unrealistic expectations of some participants who may not have the language skills to become an effective DI, and funding to support training.
  • Deaf Interpreter educators see the need for a standardized approach to training that could be offered at centers throughout the United States.
  • There is a great need for public education about the needs and benefits of using Deaf Interpreters.
  • There is a need for a venue for networking and exchange of information for the professional community of Deaf Interpreters.
  • There is a need for ongoing research to inform Deaf Interpreter education practices.In order to build upon this work, an expert team of Deaf interpreter practitioners and educators is developing a curriculum reflecting the unique competencies required of Deaf interpreters. Team members will meet with a curriculum specialist to develop instructional modules and materials that will then be piloted in the RDI_article (RDI) Program, evaluated, and disseminated to promote replication.If you would like more information about Deaf Interpreter Practice, please visit where you can find all of our products: Study results, annotated bibliography, case study, and other valuable resources.

  • Contact

    Regional Interpreter Education Center
    American Sign Language Program
    405 Meserve Hall
    Northeastern University
    Boston, MA 02115
    617-373-8262 voice
    857.366.4195 VP and voice
    617-373-3065 fax

    Northeastern University Regional Interpreter Education Center