Last Minute Cancellations: We Still Have to Pay?

Even though medical, staff, tutoring and other appointment last minute cancellations happen all the time it can still be frustrating when you get the call.  Sometimes client (patients, employees, students, etc.) do not even take the time to notify you they will not be coming.  When a client forgets, cancels, or does not show up to their appointment, what happens?  Typically the facility contacts the client to reschedule and nothing more is made of it.  When the client is Deaf, however, there may also be an interpreter scheduled who will need to be notified.  If the cancellation occurs with less than a 24-48 hour notice, the facility will still be billed for the interpreter’s time.  But often the cost incurred is blamed on the Deaf client choosing to or forgetting to show up.  They are made to feel guilty by the business having to still pay the interpreter.  Many companies wonder why the standard is to still pay the interpreter and if this cost can be avoided.

last minute cancellationsBilling for Last Minute Cancellations

Sign language interpreters set aside their time for each appointment.  If it is cancelled last minute (24-48 hrs), it is likely they will be unable to fill that time with another interpreting assignment.  It is industry standard to pay interpreters for this time even though the appointment has been cancelled.  Similar standards are practiced at salons and in other service professions.  This guarantees that the professional is still compensated for the time they have set aside.  For ongoing interpreter support and excellent customer service, try to demonstrate collaboration with interpreters.

Client No Shows

Even if the client does not show up on time, the sign language interpreter will wait for 15-30 minutes or until they are dismissed by the office.  During this wait time, the interpreter will not be able to contact the client.  The office will need to contact them the same way they contact any other client if necessary.

It can be frustrating to go to all the effort to schedule an interpreter only to have the client not show up.  The ADA addresses the legal ramifications of not providing a qualified interpreter whether the client comes or not.  There are some tax breaks as well for some businesses that provide accommodations.  The benefits outweigh the costs of an occasional no-show.  Consider the long term effects on your facility for providing consistent access through sign language interpreters to Deaf patients.

Cancelling without Client Confirmation

We do not recommend cancelling the sign language interpreter in order to avoid incurring the interpreter cost.  Facilities often try to contact clients prior to their appointments to confirm the appointment date and time.  Sometimes the client does not respond.  This is not assumed to be a cancellation for clients who do not use an interpreter.  The same approach should be used for a Deaf client.  The interpreter should be left on the schedule until an appointment has been confirmed or officially cancelled.  If the Deaf client shows up or confirms their appointment last minute but the interpreter has already been cancelled, it will be difficult or impossible to find an available interpreter.  We recommend having an interpreter scheduled until the client confirms a cancellation.  A reputable sign language interpreting firm can guide you further in this matter to be sure your Deaf clients are appropriately served.


Sometimes last minute cancellations for appointments occur with less than a 24-48 hour notice.  The facility should notify the sign language interpreting firm as soon as possible of the cancellation.  But the burden of cost should not be placed on the Deaf client.  It is their right along with anyone else to not show up to an appointment without notification.  Contact your local sign language interpreting company for continued guidance on scheduling interpreters and policies on cancellations.


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MT & Associates | Sign Language Interpreting Practice BBB Business Review