Interacting with Deaf Consumers

Must we use a Sign Language Interpreter? What about lip-reading or writing back and forth?

Interacting with Deaf ConsumersDeaf consumers often state that using a sign language interpreter is the most accurate way for them to communicate.  Alternative ways to communicate (such as writing back and forth) can be effective in some situations, but in many situations, they are not.  For example, most /deaf consumers use sign language as their first language, so text provided in English may cause misunderstanding.  Someone may nod their head indicating they understand, but this does not mean they fully understand what the other person is saying.  It is only stating that they “think” they understand what is being said.

Sign language interpreters are almost always required to be present in any professional conversation (legal, medical, education).  Any misunderstandings in communication increases liability to all parties.  Deaf consumers have the right (under the ADA) to request whatever communication mode they prefer.  This is considered equal access to communication.  You may also be required to hire a sign language interpreter team. Check out this article to learn more.

Can I turn away a patient if they require interpreting service?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was designed to prevent discrimination against those with disabilities.  For the purposes of our discussion we will refer to the sections related to sign language interpreting services.  Discriminating against anyone for any reason is not only bad for business, but is unethical and illegal.  Cancelling appointments, or turning people away so that you do not have to cover the cost of a sign language interpreter, will open your business up to liability.

Another consideration, is be sure to hire a reputable sign language interpreting firm to provide services.  Choosing the lowest cost provider should not be your reason for selection.  Using a sign language interpreter who isn’t qualified, ethical, or reputable could still open your facility up to liability. Use a reputable sign language interpreting company.


For more information check out these helpful articles:

*See section III.4.1400- Surcharges

*ADA quick tips PDF

*Services should be tax deductible or you may be able to apply for a tax credit.  Check out this article for more information.


Additional Resources:

ADA Title III Technical Assistance Manual

ADA Quick Tips


Photo Credit:

MT & Associates | Sign Language Interpreting Practice BBB Business Review