Sign Language Interpreters are hearing people who are fluent in both English and American Sign Language (ASL). Professionally trained and certified, interpreters are bound by a code of ethics which strictly defines and limits the interpreter’s role and absolutely protects confidentiality and self-determination.
How to access an interpreter in Vermont
1. Identify preferred interpreters
- Ask if the person prefers a specific interpreter or if there are any interpreters with whom they would not feel comfortable.
- If the person is not sure, you can show a list (available at www.virs.org) and ask them to point to any with whom they would or would not like to work
2. Vermont Interpreter Referral Service (VIRS) will need the person’s name, so get a release to share this information with VIRS. If the person prefers, they can make the call.
3. During Business Hours
- Contact VIRS to request a certified professional interpreter. Note that they will charge a fee for making the arrangements. VIRS: 1-800-639-1519 OR
- Contact interpreters directly.
4. During Evenings and Weekends
- You will need to contact an interpreter directly.
- A current list of interpreters with their contact info can be found at www.virs.org.
5. Tell the person when the interpreter will arrive. Depending on how far she needs to travel, an interpreter might arrive within 30 minutes to several hours.
- The Deaf community in Vermont is relatively small and tight-knit. A Deaf person may be concerned about using an interpreter who might know them or the person who abused or raped them.
- Unlike other resources where you may encourage people to make calls themselves, interpreters are there for you too. It is appropriate, responsible and respectful to make this call yourself unless the person would prefer to do it.
- While hearing people often think of Deaf people as needing interpreters, it can be more helpful to think of interpretation as a two-way street: the need for an interpreter is created as much by the hearing person’s ignorance of sign language as by the Deaf person’s deafness; both people need an interpreter in order to communicate with each other.
- If the Deaf person brought along a friend or family member to interpret, remember that this person may not be fluent in ASL or English and is probably not trained to interpret or to understand the role of an interpreter or the need for confidentiality. Intentionally or not, friends and family often create more confusion by misinterpreting and/or interpreting only some of what is being communicated. They can also increase the danger a person is facing by sharing information about her safety strategies or whereabouts.
- Interpretation is a two-way street, and it’s ok to tell a person that YOU need an interpreter. As a hearing advocate, your task is to strike a delicate balance between your need for clear communication and respect for the person’s wishes. You can offer that you can get started while you wait, using writing and/or a friend/family member to facilitate simple communications only.