Help! I need an Interpreter

Feb 10, 2022 12:00:00 AM | Help! I need an Interpreter

Blog header that reads - Help! I need an interpreter with a subhead of What to do when you need an interpreter

A Deaf person walks in to your office…and you have no idea what to do. They hand you a card, or a note and they ask you to get a Sign Language Interpreter. You have probably seen interpreters on TV, but you didn’t realize they can come to your place of business.


You tell the person, "Bring a family member or go someplace else," because you don’t provide these services and you have no idea how to provide Sign Language Interpreter services. Next thing you know - a lawsuit may show up at your office.


Or someone is yelling at you, crying because they don't understand or you have people calling your office telling you you have to use their services to provide an Interpreter.


Perhaps you're just simply wondering what to do because you want to do the right thing. I’m going to help you.


First, yes, you have to provide an Interpreter…it’s the law. All places of “public accommodation” (that provide a service to the public) must provide an Interpreter if requested to do so by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). However, no, you do not have to use the place that contacts you. Yes, you should try to use the preference of the Deaf person, but as a business, you have the right to hold a contract that is agreeable to you.


Second, can you use a family member? You can, but it is not advised. No matter what the situation is, using a family member cannot guarantee that all the information is being interpreted. Everyone means well, but if your family member serves as the Interpreter, they control the information and they control the decision-making ability.


Writing back and forth takes a lot of time and you cannot guarantee the Deaf person understands everything you said because English is their second language, they use Sign Language to communicate and it’s different from English. Using an Interpreter saves time and ensures better communication.


Third, it’s a business expense and you have to think of it as a business expense.


I know. You don’t make enough from Medicare or Medicaid to cover the cost of the Interpreter. The cost of the appointment is almost the cost of the interpreter or is the same amount as the Interpreter. These are not reasons under the ADA to not provide effective communication (a Sign Language Interpreter). I have heard this a lot in my career. It’s an undue hardship you might say. The burden of “undue hardship” under the ADA is so stringent that providing this Interpreter would have to put you out of business, completely. Shut the doors for good. If not, then you are obligated to provide. (I’m not an attorney, but that’s my understanding, please seek your own legal advice.)


If you find yourself in this position, give us a call. We will walk you through obtaining services, which is very simple. If you are in fact having a difficult time with paying for them we might be able to help you find a cost effective solution like Video Remote Interpreting (VRI). Depending on how long the appointment is it may be a solution for you.


Obtaining an Interpreter isn’t difficult, you fill out an Agreement and then fill out a Request form each time you need an Interpreter. That form is emailed or faxed to Global Interpreting Services. The reason a Request Form is used is so that everyone is on the same page about the time and date and place the Interpreter is supposed to be. It’s a well developed process for everyone that requests all the information needed for a successful interaction between you, the Interpreter and the Consumer. Nothing can be forgotten because the form has a place for it all.


I believe that you will find requesting an Interpreter is a simple process. It’s an adjustment at first because you are adding an additional person in to your appointment. When you agree to work with Global, you are not just getting our interpreters' knowledge, you are getting first-class customer service. We will teach you how to interact with interpreters and make the service as easy to use as possible. For now, as always, contact our office if you have questions on services.

Dawn Flanigan

Written By: Dawn Flanigan