two hands doing sign language

Working with Sign Language Interpreters

Attendees who are deaf or hard of hearing may require sign language interpreters to provide ASL or other sign language interpretation in real-time. Below are a few tips for working with sign language interpreters.

  • Interpreters must join the video platform with everyone.
  • Interpreters typically work in teams of at least two, especially for longer meetings. If possible, make the interpreters panelists or co-hosts. This allows them to seamlessly manage the switch between interpreters.
    • Ask the interpreters how often they switch. Often, it’s about every 15 minutes. This lets the speakers know when to pause to allow the interpreters to switch without missing anything.
  • It’s essential to understand that offering captioning does not provide an equivalent accommodation to an ASL request.
  • As with CART, it is wise to create an account with a provider in advance of a meeting and to provide prep materials ahead of time to the interpreters.
    • The Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf(RID) maintains a list of providers. The registry is a good place to start when you are looking for an interpreter. However, if an interpreter appears on this registry, it does not automatically mean they are qualified for the specific topic your meeting will cover. You should check that the interpreter specializes in your meeting’s topic.
    • Another option is to ask the attendee who requested an interpreter if they have any recommendations or preferences.

Meeting Etiquette

If you are using sign language interpreters, you’ll want to follow the meeting etiquette they recommend. As with CART, remind participants to speak slowly, clearly and use plain language. Having participants turn off their cameras when they are not speaking is also a best practice, especially during conversations. This assists the interpreters in doing their job successfully by ensuring that the image of the speaking participant always displays automatically and prominently.

When your meeting includes a panel of speakers, ensure the video that participants watch only shows the person currently speaking and the interpreter. If you show all panelists on the screen, it makes each person’s video window smaller and as a result, lip reading will become more difficult for participants. Generally, the fewer videos that you show in the main view, the easier it will be for participants to follow the meeting.

Continue to the Speaker Guide: Requesting Live Captioning for Your Presentation