What is a Certified Deaf Interpreter (CDI)?

Certified Deaf InterpreterA CDI, or a Certified Deaf Interpreter, works alongside a hearing sign language interpreter as a team interpreter. A CDI is D/deaf, and typically their first language is sign language. This makes them invaluable in providing guidance to a hearing sign language interpreter in understanding the D/deaf client’s language choices and behaviors. Certified Deaf Interpreters are commonly used for highly complex interpreting scenarios, such as mental health and legal settings.

Why use a Certified Deaf Interpreter?

Language Inconsistency

This can be confusing.  Why would a trained, certified, and licensed hearing sign language interpreter need this type of support? First of all, let’s consider our other blog regarding working with a local interpreter. A local interpreter can ensure the local dialect is interpreted correctly because they know the sign language appropriate to their community. In everyday settings a local certified and licensed hearing sign language interpreter is very effective in providing sign language interpreting services. However, the decisions that parents of D/deaf children make may affect the child’s ability to access language growing up.  (See our blog regarding sign language variations.)  This can mean they do not have language or have less access to accurate American Sign Language (ASL).  They may even have home signs.

Critical Information Interpreted

When considering mental health or legal scenarios, the stakes are high.  Working with a CDI is the best possible avenue in ensuring equal access to communication if the D/deaf consumer or client is not fluent in sign language or English. In mental health, it could be possible that the D/deaf consumers have a grasp of sign language and/or English.  Since their mental state can influence their language, however, there can be confusion between a language deficiency and mental illness.

Sign Language Variations

In the average sign language interpretation the interpretation occurs simultaneously.  With someone who does not understand sign language or English, the process takes longer since the goal is simply understanding. This means a great deal of time can be spent with these D/deaf consumers to determine what they are talking about to ensure an accurate interpretation. A CDI with a cultural visual language fluency is able to assist a hearing sign language interpreter to determine the meaning of variations in signed languages. Additionally, a culturally D/deaf sign language user who is a Certified Deaf Interpreter can also provide guidance to determine the accuracy of seen behaviors that may not be variances in language.  They instead might be characteristics of mental illness.

In conclusion, CDI’s and hearing sign language interpreters work as a team to determine the best possible interpretation to guide legal or mental health experts so that they can make the most appropriate decision for the D/deaf client.

CDI Example

Here is a sample of what it is like for a CDI and a hearing Sign language interpreter work as a team in a courtroom:

CDI and Sign Language Interpreter working together in a courtroom setting

Due to the complexities of signed language, variances in localities, and variances in upbringing of D/deaf individuals, a CDI is invaluable and should be use more often. It is unethical to not consider a CDI when it is the most accurate access to communication. When recommended by a reputable sign language interpreting firm, CDI’s should be used to ensure accurate access to communication.



Photo Credit:

MT & Associates | Sign Language Interpreting Practice BBB Business Review