We understand there can be a lot of questions about providing the best communication access services to your employees, students, guests, or customers. The following FAQ is a great place to start, but if you have any further questions, contact us and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

On-Site Sign Language Services:

When do I need to use an interpreter?

An interpreter facilitates communication between parties who do not share the same language. Deaf individuals may be prevented from understanding and/or participating in situations if spoken or written English is the main mode of communication.

Some simple communication can be done through written notes or gestures, but any time important content is being communicated, having an interpreter present safeguards the participants by ensuring that information is accessible to both parties.

Who is required to pay for an interpreter?

Businesses and community organizations are responsible for paying for sign language interpreting services. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) mandates that “title II entities (State and local governments) and title III entities (businesses and nonprofit organizations that serve the public) communicate effectively with people who have communication disabilities. The goal is to ensure that communication with people with these disabilities is equally effective as communication with people without disabilities.”

Is providing interpreting services expensive?

Accessibility services such as sign language interpreting should be budgeted as part of your annual planning. It is true that, on a per-encounter basis, some organizations may pay more for interpreting services than is generated in revenue. However, if you consider the cost over the course of a year as an overhead cost of doing business, providing accessible services is quite reasonable. Tax Credits can be available. DSU will assist you in getting reimbursed the maximum amount for your provision of interpreting services. You will be assured of clear and effective communication, delivery of quality customer services to your Deaf consumers, and be in compliance with state and Federal mandates on accessibility requirements. To find out more about this reimbursement opportunity, contact your tax professional.

Will I have to pay a minimum charge?

You will usually be asked to pay a two-hour minimum charge for interpreting services. Because interpreters come to you, on your schedule, their fees have to take into account the amount of time spent traveling between jobs, wait time for the next assignment to start, and down time when no work is available. Additionally, mileage, parking fees, and travel time may be charged, depending on how far the interpreter has to travel to your assignment. Depending on the situation, Video Remote Interpreting services can be provided with a 30-minute minimum and will never have travel fees. When used appropriately, this can be a cost-effective means for providing interpreting services for a short period of time.

What if I have to cancel my request?

When you schedule an interpreter, you are purchasing their time. If you have to cancel your request, it may or may not be possible to sell that time to another customer. Please be sure to ask about our cancellation policy when requesting an interpreter. Generally, cancellations under 48 business hours are billable.

How much advance notice do I need to give you to get an interpreter?

There’s never too much advance notice! Interpreters are a scarce resource, and often the demand exceeds the supply. Because interpreters come to you, on your schedule, we must juggle the needs of many customers to try to accommodate as many requests as possible.

The farther in advance you can plan appointments, trainings, or meetings where you will be using an interpreter, the better. However, if you have a sudden need, don’t despair. Often another customer will cancel interpreting services at the last minute, freeing up an interpreter’s time for your urgent request. Schedule an interpreter.

Why do I have to have two interpreters for my assignment?

Interpreting is a very taxing activity, both mentally and physically. Research has shown that an interpreter’s ability to mentally process and interpret a message accurately diminishes drastically after approximately 20 minutes of interpreting. Worse, the interpreter is usually unaware that his or her accuracy has decreased, so misinformation is being unwittingly transmitted.

Additionally, the rate of repetitive motion injuries among sign language interpreters is very high (some studies have shown over 60% of interpreters suffering some injuries that require medical treatment). Our scheduling team will assist you in determining the appropriate number of interpreters needed.

Interpreter Qualifications:

Someone in my office knows sign language. Can I have that person interpret for us?

No. Interpreting is a very complex task that requires more than just knowing some sign language. The process of translating a message from one language to another requires a high level of proficiency in both languages, as well as knowing principles of accurate interpretation. A coworker, or someone who is responsible for other duties in your workplace, should not be put in the position of interpreting for a Deaf colleague or customer in a professional setting.

There is no guarantee of quality, accuracy, or confidentiality of information when using a person who works in your office or workplace. In many cases, unintended damage has been done by a “signer” who is trying to help, requiring a professional interpreter to be hired just to interpret a mediation that would not have been necessary if that same professional interpreter was obtained at the start.

What does it take to become an interpreter?

Interpreting is a complex task, requiring near-native language skills in at least two languages, as well as a deep knowledge of two cultures. A skilled interpreter should provide the full content of an interaction between two or more people who do not share the same language. This requires deep understanding of the information that is being transmitted, as well as practiced manual interpreting skills.

Most sign language interpreters have studied American Sign Language (ASL) for two to five years, in addition to one to three years of interpreter training. They are required to continue expanding their skills on an annual basis.

How do I know an interpreter is qualified?

Deaf Services Unlimited only employs the most highly qualified interpreters. DSU interpreters are nationally certified by the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID), or National Association of the Deaf and have at least three years of interpreting experience.  All DSU interpreters hold licensure and credentials mandated by the state in which they are providing services.

Of course, no one interpreter can be qualified for every situation. Our scheduling team will gather as much information about your assignment as possible to determine which of our interpreters will best meet your needs.

Legal Interpreting:

What is legal interpreting?

Interpreting in the legal setting is a long-recognized area of specialization in the field of ASL-English interpreting. The legal setting is broad and includes law enforcement investigations, interviews and interrogations, client-attorney interactions, and a wide range of court and legal proceedings. Tradition from the field of spoken language interpreting and the legal community contribute to the conventional way legal interpreting work is performed. As well, practices have been conceived by ASL-English interpreter practitioners over time through a process of application of theory drawn from the profession’s scholarship. As a result, patterns of practice and best practices have been identified and guide the work of practitioners in this area of specialization.

Do I need a certified legal interpreter?

Law enforcement investigations, interviews and interrogations, client-attorney interactions, and a wide range of court and legal proceedings will all require interpreters with legal certification.

Working in the legal setting requires advanced interpreting competence—including the ability to fluently execute consecutive and simultaneous interpreting of complex texts, work effectively in teams—particularly the ability to work collaboratively with Certified Deaf Interpreters (CDIs), and to adapt language use to a wide range of sign language users. Further, it requires an in depth understanding of law enforcement and the legal system.

There are unique parameters impacting the work of interpreters in this setting that are the result of case law, legal and evidentiary procedures. Typically, the knowledge and skills required of interpreters to work in this setting are acquired after completion of a solid academic foundation in interpreting, coupled with multiple years of practice, followed by specialized training in legal interpreting and supervised field experience.

Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) Services:

How does VRI work

Rather than having an interpreter in person at your appointment, your interpreting would be done through a video connection in which an interpreter at another location interacts with both the Deaf and hearing participants through a video screen and camera. It is just like having the remote interpreter in the room with you.

Your video screen can be a computer with a camera or any other video conferencing equipment you have. Most people use a laptop computer.

In what situations or settings can I use VRI?

VRI can be used in most settings that a live interpreter would be used. Examples include: staff meetings, classrooms, conferences, hospitals, courtrooms, and one-on-one meetings.

If you’re not sure if you should request a VRI interpreter or an in-person interpreter, our coordination team will help determine which accommodation is most appropriate.

Can I get a VRI interpreter immediately?

We offer pre-scheduled VRI appointments and do not currently provide 24/7 instant access to VRI interpreters. However, we can often times accommodate last minute requests.

Conference Planning:

What are some of the things I need to consider before I get started?

  • Include the cost of accommodations (including interpreting services) in the overall conference budget. These costs should be considered when setting registration fees.
  • Immediately upon scheduling a conference, Deaf Services Unlimited begin the requesting process for interpreters. Be prepared to provide information on the conference schedule, location, and topic. You may contact us before any participants request services. We can help you prepare to accommodate your Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing clients or participants.

What information will I need to provide?

Besides the logistics of date, time, and place, the information below is helpful in determining your conference needs:

  • How big/complex is the conference? Factors in complexity:
    • Number of participants
    • Number of Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing participants
    • Communication needs of Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing participants
    • Any Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing presenters
    • Number of breakout sessions at any one time
  • Length of conference (number of days/number of hours per day)
  • Topic of conference
  • Format of sessions (workshop, lecture, research paper, panel, roundtable)
  • If people will schedule to attend sessions in advance, or if they will be waiting to make session selections on site
  • Room setup and need for accommodations (lighting, backdrops, etc)
  • Copies of any presentation materials, vocabulary, and schedules.

What information should I gather from conference attendees during registration?


  • Ask participants what accommodations they prefer
  • Ask participants what their attendance schedule will be (how many days, what hours of the days)

When conference information is sent out, consider what information should be solicited regarding necessary accommodations during the registration process. Set deadline for requests for accommodations. The actual deadline will depending on the registration deadline, amount of advance publicity, number of Deaf attendees, the number of sessions offered, and the number of interpreters required. We can work with you to decide the best course of action.

What would a recommended timeline for access planning look like?

  • 2-3 months before conference start date: Make a schedule of events during the conference. Schedule should include breakdown of times (start times and end times for each day) and configuration of breakout sessions, plenary sessions, and any other activities (including social activities).
  • 2 months in advance: Provide a list of presenters and their phone/fax/email information. (Especially important for any Deaf presenters; interpreter coordinator will want to know their communication modality preferences.)
  • 2 months in advance, then regular updates: Provide contact information for conference attendees, so that information can be obtained on their schedules and interpreter preferences.
  • 1 month in advance: Sign Deaf Services Unlimited Customer Agreement.
  • 2-4 weeks in advance: Deadline for conference attendees to request services. Requests made after this date may be harder to fill.
  • 1-2 weeks in advance: Secure any abstracts, PowerPoint presentations, or notes for interpreters to use in preparation.

What to Expect from Conference Interpreters

  • Positioning: The interpreters will position themselves prior to the beginning of the presentation. This position will take into account easy transition visibility between the interpreter and presenter, lighting, and multi-media presentations.
  • Interpretation: The interpreter will use sign language to interpret all that is heard or communicated. Likewise, he/she will use spoken English when a person who is Deaf is communicating through sign language. At no time is the interpreter joining the discussion.
  • The Interpreting Team: To reduce the risk of repetitive motion injuries, programs lasting over an hour sometimes require two interpreters in order to present the best possible interpretation of the program. The interpreters will switch from primary interpreter to supporting interpreter every 20-30 minutes.
  • Throughout the presentation you may notice the interpreter continuing to interpret even after you have paused. Also the interpreter may not begin signing right away at the exact time you begin speaking. This is normal. This allows processing time crucial to provide an accurate interpretation.

Remote CART:

How does Remote CART work?

An audio feed taken from a classroom or meeting room is sent to an experienced offsite CART writer.  The CART writer uses one of several audio solutions, creates captions using a captioning application. The captions are streamed back to the viewer via internet connection.

How do I provide audio?

For the best results, we need to have a clear audio signal so we can hear what needs to be captioned.  We can arrange this in several ways.  Most frequently, our clients use a Skype call over a Wi-Fi network to connect.  For best results using Skype, we recommend using a Bluetooth microphone. Audio can also be sent successfully through a phone connection.

What devices can I use with your remote CART service?

Our service is accessible through any web-enabled device such as an iPad or other tablet, smartphone, laptop or desktop computer.

I would like a transcript. Is that possible?

Yes.  The transcript is included with your session. Just let the coordinator know ahead of time you would like a copy.