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WHAT IS A Deaf Interpreter?

A Deaf linguist specialist who provides interpreting, translation, and transliteration services in American Sign Language and other visual and tactual communication forms used by individuals who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and DeafBlind. 

A Deaf Interpreter often works together with a Hearing Interpreter to facilitate communication between a Deaf person and a hearing person. 

deaf interpreter, hearing interpreter
what is the difference?


A Deaf person, trained in the art of interpretation, who facilitates communication between a Deaf individual and Hearing Interpreter using:

  • Non-standard ASL

  • A regional dialect

  • Other forms of visual communication

deaf interpreter


A Hearing person interprets information the Deaf Interpreter interprets from the Deaf consumer to the Hearing consumer and signs what the Hearing consumer is saying to the Deaf Interpreter for transmittal to the Deaf consumer. 

Hearing interpreter

* A Deaf Interpreter does NOT mean

an "Interpreter FOR the Deaf". 

Who needs a Deaf Interpreter?

  • Deaf people who use signs particular to a given region, ethnic, or age group

  • Deaf people who use idiosyncratic non-standard signs or gestures such as those commonly referred to as "Home signs" which are unique to a family

  • Deaf people who have been socially isolated (i.e. people from rural areas; patients in mental health facilities; inmates in correctional facilities)

  • A Deaf person who is seriously ill, injured or dying (the inability to produce signs clearly or use both arms when signing may be affected)

  • A Deaf person with learning and language challenge(s) or is a-lingual

  • Deaf children who have had little or no exposure to English and/or ASL

  • DeafBlind Individuals or Deaf with limited vision

  • Deaf Immigrants or Expats using International and/or Foreign Signs

What situations would a Deaf Interpreter be needed?

  • ProTactile Interpreting or Close Vision interpreting for DeafBlind or Deaf with limited vision

  • Communication issues caused by illness or injury

  • Characteristics reflective of Deaf culture not familiar to hearing interpreters

  • In court, where a person could be wrongly convicted

  • Working with law enforcement or emergency medical professionals when interviewing victims, witnesses, or suspects who are Deaf

  • In medical or mental health settings, where clear and accurate communication assists professionals in determining diagnosis, medication, or other interventions

  • Press conferences

What are the benefits of using a Deaf interpreter?

  • Optimal understanding by all parties

  • Efficient use of time and resources

  • Clarification of linguistic and/or cultural confusion and misunderstanding(s)

  • Arrival at a clear conclusion in the interpreting situation

How does The Interpreting Process work?

Once the Deaf person formulates their message, the Deaf Interpreter interprets the message to the Hearing Interpreter. Then, the Hearing Interpreter interprets the message to the Hearing person. The process is done the same vice versa. 

Interpreting model.png

tips when communicating with a Deaf person:

Why support Deaf/Hearing Team Interpreters?

  • Deaf consumers are better able to express themselves freely and not be concerned with their English 

  • Double-checking system: each party has a chance to double-check their message

  • If there is confusion, the team can work together to better understand the message and provide the best interpretation

  • If you are a hearing person involved in a conversation being interpreted by a Deaf and a hearing interpreter, simply communicate as you would with a hearing person.

  • Maintain eye contact with the deaf person, not with the interpreters

  • You don’t need to address the interpreters at all

  • Allow more time for the interpreting process

  • Moderate the pace of your speech

  • Change seating or standing arrangements as demonstrated below:

Z Model


X Model


If necessary, the interpreters will advise all participants on how best to work with the team.

frequently asked questions