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Communicating Through Sign Language Interpreters


Interpreters employed by the ODS at Texas State are trained, certified professionals who are proficient in American Sign Language (ASL) as well as other methods of visual communication.  The national Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) membership established standards of ethical behavior to protect and guide interpreters as well as consumers.  Texas State recognizes that the term consumer applies to students, faculty and staff.  The RID Code of Ethics includes…

  • Interpreters/transliterators shall keep all assignment-related information strictly confidential. Consequently, interpreters cannot answer questions about the student being served and the ODS will not provide the student’s name prior to the first day of class.
  • Interpreters/transliterators shall render the message faithfully, always conveying the content and spirit of the speaker using language most readily understood by the person(s) whom they serve.  The interpreter will sign what you or others speak in the room and will voice what the student signs.
  • Interpreters/transliterators shall not counsel, advise or interject personal opinions.  For this reason interpreters must remain neutral during an assignment; they must refrain from participating in discussion.

Interpreter Preparation

In order for an interpreter to provide the most effective interpretation of the lecture, he/she needs to prepare in advance of each class period.  Copies of the course syllabus and handouts given in class facilitate this process.  Preparation enables the interpreter to review specialized terms and diagrams, and check for the correct spelling of proper names.  Some terminology has no specific sign equivalent and requires the interpreter to develop signs that are conceptually accurate.

Interpreting Teams

Depending on the length of a class, it may be necessary to have two interpreters for some classes.  Therefore, depending upon availability and assignment load, partners may be assigned.  The partners will alternate every 15 to 20 minutes.

Student Absences

An interpreter will wait for 15 minutes outside the classroom for a student to arrive.  If the student does not arrive within that timeframe, the interpreter will leave, considering the student a “no-show.”  Students are aware of this policy, and know that if they arrive after the 15 minutes, they will be without an interpreter.


Because interpreters communicate visually, it is important that they can be easily seen by the student during the lecture or meeting.  During a meeting, the interpreter will sit or stand next to you.  This allows the student to see both you and the interpreter at the same time.

In the classroom, the interpreter will need to be at the front of the class.  This allows the student to receive the information while having visual access to the professor, the chalkboard, and overhead materials.  The majority of the time, the interpreter will be standing to allow for a shift in positioning when necessary.  This may feel awkward at first, but feel free to conduct your class in the manner in which you are accustomed.  The interpreter will change position as needed to allow you to proceed with minimal distraction.

Interpreter Process/Lag Time

There is a slight delay in translating spoken English into sign language.  Therefore, you may experience a delayed response to questions or feedback from the student.

You Should Know...

  • Students using interpreters can participate in class discussion.
  • Students using interpreters can keep up with course material.
  • Students who use interpreters are acting independently from the interpreter

Quick Reference to Communicating Through Interpreters in Compliance with the Code of Ethics

  • Address the student directly, not “Tell him…” or “Ask her…”
  • Address questions regarding accommodations to the student, not the interpreter.
  • Speak at your normal rate and volume.  No need to ask the interpreter if you are going too fast.
  • Avoid making comments to the interpreter.  It may seem to the student that you are talking about her/him.
  • Avoid asking the interpreter questions.  It may seem you are discounting the student’s ability to give input.
  • Avoid asking the interpreter to give a message to the student.
  • An interpreter does not need to know the student’s grades.
  • An interpreter cannot summarize or explain information to the student.

Procedures for Obtaining Sign Language Interpreting Services

Students, faculty, staff, and other persons with disabilities who attend or participate in Texas State sponsored activities, programs and services are entitled to reasonable and appropriate accommodations to facilitate such participation according to federal law and university policy. For a person who is deaf or hard of hearing, the services of a qualified sign language or oral interpreter is a reasonable and appropriate accommodation. A request for interpreting services may be made by a deaf or hard of hearing person or by a Texas State representative; however all requests for students should be coordinated through the Office of Disability Services (ODS).

Questions regarding interpreting services should be directed to the ODS Deaf and Hard of Hearing Coordinator,, 512.245.3451, Suite 5-5.1, LBJ Student Center.

Interpreters for Classes

To request interpreting services for academic classes (first class day to last class day), complete and submit the Schedule/Request for Interpreters form to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Coordinator as soon as classes are scheduled for the upcoming semester. It is important to submit your schedule at least two weeks before the start of the semester so the ODS has sufficient time to locate interpreters whose skills best meet your communication needs. If you make a schedule change, notify the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Coordinator immediately.

The ODS will provide information to faculty who will have a sign language or oral interpreter in their class regarding best practice for effective communication with deaf and hard of hearing students

Interpreters for Final Exams

To request interpreting services for a final exam, submit a request: 1) via the Schedule/Request for Interpreters form, 2) in person (complete the “Final Exam Schedule” form), 3) email the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Coordinator. Two weeks notice prior to the last class day is recommended. Interpreters will not be provided for final exams unless requested.

Interpreters for Meetings and Special Events

  1. Fill out this form or contact the ODS directly at 512.245.3451, Suite 5-5.1, LBJ Student Center for more information.

  2. The ODS must receive the request 72 hours prior to the start of the event. For special events requiring master level interpreters, ODS asks for two weeks notice. if the event is less than four hours in length. If the event is more than four hours in length, the request must be received at least one week prior to the event.

  3. The ODS will schedule a qualified interpreter(s) from the Texas State interpreting pool San Marcos Interpreting. Contact information including the name of the interpreter will be provided to the event contact person. The interpreter will be provided the name and telephone number of the event contact person.

Payment for Interpreting Services

  1. Any cost associated with providing accommodations is the responsibility of the host department/program unless it is directly related to academic access for an ODS registered student with a disability. The department will receive an invoice directly from the interpreting agency providing the service
  2. There is a fee for interpreting services. Please contact the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Coordinator,, for more specific details. Any event more than one hour in length will require two interpreters.
  3. Following the event the interpreting agency will send an invoice directly to the requesting department.


If a department/program representative or person with a disability cancels interpreter services less than 24 hours prior to the event for which interpreting services were scheduled, the university is obligated to pay the interpreter(s) for the full contracted amount. If the deaf or hard of hearing person is a "no-show" at the event, interpreting service fees will be billed to the department/program as scheduled.

Questions regarding interpreting services should be directed to the ODS Interpreter Coordinator, 245-3451, Suite 5-5.1, LBJ Student Center.

If you know 24 hours or less that you will not be attending a class or scheduled meeting, email the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Coordinator or contact the ODS at 245-3451 (V/TTY) immediately. If the cancellation is more than 24 hours you can submit a cancellation: 1) via the web, 2) in person (complete a “Cancellation Form”), 3) by phone, or 4) email the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Coordinator. We ask that you provide notice of cancellation at least 24 hours in advance so that we can cancel or reschedule interpreting services.

The ODS understands that situations can arise at the last minute that may prevent a student from attending a class. Therefore, the ODS allows 3 “No-Shows” per class, per semester before interpreting services are cancelled for that class. A “No-Show” is defined as any cancellation with less than 24 hours notice.

The first “No-Show” is FREE allowing for a conflict that arises at the last minute. After the second “No-Show” in the same class, you will be sent a written reminder about the “No-Show” policy. After the third “No-Show” in a class, interpreting services for that specific class will be suspended until you meet with the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Coordinator to reinstate services. After the fourth “No-Show” in a class, services for that specific class will be canceled for the remainder of the semester. Special circumcstances may be presented to the Director in order to reinstate services. After the meeting, services may be reinstated for the class. If you have any questions regarding the “No-Show” policy contact the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Coordinator.