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Working with an Interpreter

When is an Interpreter Needed?

An Interpreter is a professional who facilitates communication between parties who do not share the same language or mode of communication. Professional visual language interpreters are specifically trained in providing this service when Deaf, deafened or hard-of-hearing individuals are present.

Interpreters work in a variety of settings which may include the following: 

  • Medical (appointments, hospital visits) 
  • Legal (court, meetings with lawyers)
  • Employment (interviews, classroom, workplace meetings, training) 
  • Mental health 
  • Education (JK-12, post secondary)
  • Conference (workshops, training) 
  • Video Relay Service
  • Recreation (sporting events) 
  • Arts and Entertainment (theatrical performance)

Depending on the language of service, nature and length of the assignment, more than one interpreter may be required. A team of interpreters may include ASL-English Interpreter(s) or LSQ-French Interpreter(s) as well as Deaf Interpreters. For more information on the role of Deaf Interpreters, click here

What to Look for when Booking an Interpreter

There is no legislative body regulating an interpreter's scope of practice. OASLI recommends that all parties involved in an interpreted event share responsibility for safeguarding quality.

There are a number of factors to be considered when hiring for the most suitable ASL-English interpreter, Deaf Interpreter, or LSQ-French Interpreter for an appointment:

  • For ASL-English Interpreters, graduation from an ASL-English Interpreter Program (AEIP)
  • Professional memberships (OASLI, AVLIC, etc.)
  • Years of experience
  • Areas of experience/expertise
  • Comfort and familiarity with the nature and format of the appointment
  • Willingness to travel
  • Availability of a resume
  • Accreditation


OASLI recognizes several tests and screenings that are available to ASL-English interpreters. We also recognize that different types of accreditations can be confusing to consumers of interpreting services. Not all accreditations carry the same weight.

Here is a list of types of accreditation for ASL-English interpreters in descending order from the highest level:

For more information, please visit Accreditation and Employer Screenings

How to work with an Interpreter

Please visit Booking an Interpreter for information and tips for booking interpreter(s). 

Once you have booked an interpreter(s), it is important to provide the interpreter(s) with information or materials well in advance. This may include the following:

  • Agenda or Schedule 
  • Presentation notes (digital slides, handouts) 
  • Specific dates, times and location

Tips for Communicating Effectively Through a Sign Language Interpreter

  • Be patient
  • Speak at a normal pace
  • Speak directly to the Deaf person, not to the interpreter 
  • Permit time for the interpretation process.
  • If the interpreting team includes a Deaf Interpreter (DI), allow time for the process to complete before continuing  
  • Understand that everything you say will be interpreted 
  • Provide the interpreter(s) information or materials that will help them prepare in advance (agenda, presentation, digital slides etc.)

Clear communication is essential to avoiding misunderstandings. AVLIC/OASLI interpreters are trained professionals in the interpreting process. Interpreting between 2 language and 2 cultures takes time. However, if you feel you are not getting the response from the Deaf participant you expect, restate the question. You can also consult with the interpreter to see if there is a cultural barrier that is impacting communication.

Avoid doing the following:

  • Avoid speaking slower or louder than you normally would
  • Don't say ‘tell him’ or ‘tell her’; just talk directly to the Deaf person
  • Don't say ‘don’t interpret this part’- the interpreter will interpret everything you say
  • Don't hold the interpreter responsible for what is or is not said; the interpreter is the medium not the source of the message

It is best to avoid the use of expressions; they rarely translate well into another language. Present your ideas clearly. Avoid changing your idea mid-sentence. Try not to ask multiple questions at the same time.

Also, avoid making assumptions or generalizations about the Deaf person. Don’t assume because someone uses sign language as their first language, that they are poorly educated or have low cognitive function.

Visit Booking an Interpreter for more information and tips on booking interpreters

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