A sign language interpreter conveys spoken and signed information so that all individuals can communicate fully. They sign what you say, and ‘voice’ what students sign to them. In addition to the strategies outlined in the Best Teaching Practices section of the website in regard to classroom environment, being aware of your pace, and following communication guidelines that will ensure all students’ access, consider the following strategies:

  • On the first day of class introduce yourself to the interpreter.
  • Always speak directly to the deaf/hh student, rather than to the interpreter. In particular, avoid asking the interpreter to tell the student anything, or to help with classroom instruction, or answer questions addressed to the class. Speak to the student directly and the interpreter will interpret what you say.
  • Be aware that is the interpreter’s job to interpret everything you say, including any asides addressed to other students in the class, or to the interpreter.
  • As with all of our recommendations, ask for advice from the deaf/hh students and the interpreter regarding their preferences for handling any confusing or complex communication issues. 
  • Be patient when an interpreter voices for students. If you do not understand the student’s question or statement, ask for it to be repeated, and keep in mind that the interpreter may need time to clarify what the student has said.
  • Provide interpreters with advance copies of any written materials, including printed lab procedures and vocabulary lists. This will allow them to review the material in preparation for your lecture.
  • If access to a course web site is limited to students, include the interpreter on the class list to enable him/her to prepare for class. If emails are sent to students, include interpreters in these distributions.
  • In a lab or studio, if a substitute interpreter is present who is not familiar with the lab’s procedures, take extra care to ensure that communication is clear regarding safety issues, pointing to equipment, describing procedures, etc.
  • In any class that is longer than an hour, provide a break for the interpreter on at least an hourly basis.
As a deaf/HH student, what would you like teachers to be aware of regarding interpreting services? – Ana


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National Technical Institute for the Deaf
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This material is based on work supported by the National Science Foundation under grant numbers: DUE 1104229 and DUE 1501756.