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The DO and DO NOT of How to Get an Interpreter

The DO and DO NOT of How to Get an Interpreter

Have you seen this face before? Maybe on your son? daughter? spouse? student? This is the look of someone who just doesn’t get what is going on. Without a qualified interpreter, this is what happens to deaf individuals.


Student in classroom without an interpreter.

After my last post, I realized I had shared an experience where I did NOT succeed in getting an interpreter. Getting an interpreter for a youth class or sports team is still something that is often difficult. I compromise and offer to interpret myself. As you read, that particular company wouldn’t even let me do that and they lost my business.


I have had success in many instances in asking for and securing an interpreter for my husband or my children. I thought I’d share some Do’s and Don’ts with you today so that you can be prepared next time you need to square your shoulders and go in for the fight.

  What to DO when requesting an interpreter for yourself or your child, spouse, student, etc.

  1. Know your rights. Check out
    What does the law require of the company you are asking? The American with Disabilities Act is the place to go to find out if the company you are approaching is actually required to provide an interpreter, or not. Find a great resource here.

**Oh my goodness! I LOVE the clarifications that were added in 2010. If I had had this document 12 years ago I would not have had the fight I did! (long story, maybe for another post. I was a first time pregnant mother who could not get an interpreter for my husband during the ultra-sound or prenatal classes for OUR child.) It is written so clearly in 2010 version that it IS required by law that interpreters be provided for companions and caretakers! This is fabulous!**

  1. Identify your need: write down WHY you need an interpreter. Many companies will offer to use written English, but is that in your best interest? If the content is of an emotional nature and needs to be clear upon delivery, make that known. The company is required to provide “appropriate auxiliary aids and services.” That may differ for different individuals and the company may argue that an interpreter is not needed. Assure them that the most appropriate and effective way to communicate with the deaf individual would be through an interpreter.
  2. Approach the company with class and confidence in the way you are most comfortable. A written request is sometimes best and will find its way to the top most efficiently. If you get excited or upset over the phone or in person, don’t contact them that way. Follow up on a letter by phone or in person.
  3. Use the law in order to educate the company and to persuade them to provide an interpreter. If you have access to a lawyer who can back you up and include their name in the letter, all the better.
  4. Let the company know that if they are not willing to provide said interpreter, you will look elsewhere for the same services. The last time I did this, the man I was speaking to on the phone panicked, put me on hold, and came back saying they would provide one.
What NOT to do when getting an interpreter:
  1. Don’t Get angry. Keep your cool. Be firm but not mean.
  2. Don’t Give up on the first try. See if you can talk to the manager, the owner, etc.
  3. Don’t Offer to interpret or bring your own interpreter (unless you are willing to compromise on this. If the client and the interpreter who is not certified agree to work together, it is legal)
  4. Don’t Forget to educate. It gets tiring, but many people just do not know our needs. Parents, educate your kids on their rights as well. They will need this!
  5. Don’t interpret or ask someone who is emotionally attached to you to interpret in personal situations. A mother should not interpret for her son at a doctor’s office where he might need to answer private questions he doesn’t want his mom to know. A wife should not need to interpret to her husband that the baby inside her has a problem, etc.

    Understanding comes through the use of a qualified interpreter!

    I want to hear from you! What is your experience getting an interpreter? What tips and tricks have you used? 

    Comment below!


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