Set the Scene for a Sign Language Interpreter

You need to hire a sign language interpreter. You’ve already gone through the process of getting quotes, asking for testimonials about specific interpreting companies, and choosing a reputable sign language interpreting firm.  The interpreter is scheduled and the appointment is tomorrow.  But what can you do to set the scene for a sign language interpreter so that your first or your one hundredth experience working with an interpreter is a successful one?

Set the Scene for a Sign Language Interpreter

Sending Information about the Appointment

Prior to the appointment, consider gathering whatever information you can about the appointment to forward to the interpreter via the interpreting company.  This may be in a video, written document, or simply a phone call to the company.  The company will pass this information on to the scheduled interpreter so they will be prepared for the setup and content of the appointment.

When deciding what information is relevant, consider the following:

  • ATTENDEES: How many people will be in the appointment?  Who are they and what is their role?  Who is hearing and who is Deaf?
  • LOCATION: Is the location or room hard to find?  Where should the interpreter park, and how do they get to the correct location?  Do they need to provide sign-in information such as a photo ID?  What are the requirements to enter this environment?
  • POC: The Point of Contact is a vital piece to a successful interpreted event.  Be sure to inform the sign language interpreter and/or company the name of and a phone number for a POC.  This should be someone on-site who can physically meet the interpreter or respond immediately to a phone call if there are issues with finding the location.
  • PERTINENT MATERIALS: Are there materials for a presentation?  Is there a PowerPoint you can forward for the interpreter to review?  What is important terminology used?  Can you forward a website URL for the interpreter to research?

If you have further questions about relevant material, contact your reputable sign language interpreting company for guidance.

Setting Up the Environment

Sign language interpreters go into a variety of settings.  They may start their day in a hospital, then go to a classroom, a mental health institution, and end their day in a business meeting.  Because of this, an interpreter is responsible for knowing their role expectations in each setting.  The more they know about what the setting will look like, the better prepared they can be.  Also important, the environment and location information can help them reduce stress about their day.  Because they often go to new locations, they may worry they will not find the location or they will have to advocate for a different setup in the environment.  They have more on their mind than simply the linguistic interpretation.  Often navigating the environment is more stressful than anything else.

Before the event, you can help the interpreter and your Deaf attendee(s) by setting up according to DeafSpace standards.  Consider lighting, chairs available, openness of the room, visual accessibility, and turn taking of speakers.  Prepare your attendees whether coworkers, doctors, lawyers, judges, or teachers by letting them know there will be a sign language interpreter.  This way no one will be surprised by the additional person interpreting in at the event.


Well there you have it!  If we all do our part to set the scene for a sign language interpreter, there will be mutual success.  Let us collaborate to better serve our Deaf and hard-of-hearing communities with visually friendly environments.


Additional Resources:

Classroom Interpreting

Tips for Working with Deaf Students and Interpreters


Photo Credit:

MT & Associates | Sign Language Interpreting Practice BBB Business Review