Deaf Population in the United States According to Gallaudet University:

Across all age groups, in the United States, approximately 1,000,000 people (0.38% of the population, or 3.8 per 1,000) over 5 years of age are “functionally deaf;” more than half are over 65 years of age. We emphasize that these estimates are based upon self-reported (or informant-reported) hearing difficulty and not on independent audiometric measurements.

The Need for American Sign Language Interpreters:

Due to anti-discrimination acts, now more than ever businesses of all sorts, government settings, schools, legal offices, healthcare providers and even entertainment venues are utilizing American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters. If you’ve never worked with an ASL interpreter before it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the proper etiquette needed to result in a successful sign language interpretation session. Fully understanding your role and expectations can enhance the interpretation session and ensure all parties involved are on the same page. The following is a list comprised of the do’s and don’ts associated with interacting with a ASL interpreter.

Do’s of Working with an ASL Interpreter:

  • Speak, face and look directly at the deaf individual, this is the person with whom you’re conversation is with, the interpreter is only there to facilitate communication.
  • Ensure lighting is sufficient in order for the interpreter and deaf individual to sign effectively.
  • Speak in a normal voice and at a normal pace, if need be the interpreter will stop you if you’re speaking too quickly. There has to be enough time for the ASL interpreter to be able to convey your message.
  • Provide the interpreter with any documents or materials that may be beneficial to them in understanding the interaction prior to the interpretation session. If you’re speaking from notes or a presentation, supplying the interpreter with a copy can help to ensure understanding across the board.
  • Allow the interpreter to sit in an optimal position that will maximize the accuracy of the interpretation.
  • Only say what you want interpreted, the ASL interpreter will interpret everything that is said during the interpretation session.
  • Allow ample time for the deaf individual to receive the message and respond accordingly.
  • Relax, if you’re unsure of something ask.
  • Be patient and positive in your interaction with the ASL interpreter and the deaf individual.

Don’ts of Working with an ASL Interpreter:

  • Don’t speak in third person, ask the deaf individual questions directly, you’re not speaking to the interpreter, they are only there to facilitate communication.
  • Avoid side or personal conversations with the interpreter, it’s rude and unprofessional, it can make the deaf individual uncomfortable or even offend them.
  • Don’t mumble, talk too loudly or slow down too much. The ASL interpreter is trained and has the skill and experience to maintain understanding while you’re speaking at a normal pace.
  • Don’t ask the interpreter for their opinion, again they are only there to facilitate communication.
  • Don’t expect the deaf individual or the interpreter to educate you on deaf culture, brush up on your etiquette before the interpretation session.
  • Don’t ask the ASL interpreter questions or interrupt during the interpretation.
  • If you’re in a group setting remember the ASL interpreter can only interpret for one person at a time, allow only one person to speak at a time.

Niki’s Int’l Ltd. is a WBENC-Certified Women Business Enterprise with 20 years of language service experience. A global network of highly skilled interpreters and translators are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for on-site, telephonic and video remote interpretation services. Our linguists are available in over 350 languages and dialects, and our network includes certified interpreters and translators. Our work is guaranteed with a $1 Million Errors & Omissions policy, so that you can be confident that your project will be completed with the highest level of quality and professionalism within the field. For more information contact us at 1-877-567-8449 or visit our website at


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