Types of Interpreting for Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Deaf-Blind Individuals - person's hand signing

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This is about the types of interpreting for the deaf, hard of hearing and deaf-blind people through the ADA. It includes sign language interpretation, oral interpretation, cued speech interpretation, tactile interpretation and captioning.

Interpreting for Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Deaf-Blind Individuals

When it comes to providing accessible communication for individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing, or deaf-blind, there are four primary types of interpretation available that fit under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Sign Language Interpretation

This is the most common and what most people think of when they think of “interpreting” for us deaf, hard of hearing, or deaf-blind.

Sign language interpreters use signed language – in the US, it’s American Sign Language (ASL), to translate spoken words into signed words. They simultaneously translate what is being said. Oral interpreters work to “voice” what is being communicated via sign language. They voice the signs, facial expressions, and physical gestures. This translation bridges the gaps in communication.

Cued Speech Interpretation

Cued speech interpreters use very clearly articulated mouth movements to help clarify what is being said. Sometimes they use signed language, expressions, or gestures to accompany the articulated mouth movements, but those are not necessary. The highly articulated mouth movements are the basis of cued speech interpretation.

Tactile Interpretation

Tactile interpretation interprets through physical contact, such as touch or movement, to translate what is being said into signed language. Tactile interpretation is the primary form of interpretation for deaf-blind individuals, who need to feel or touch in order to communicate. Helen Keller, for example, used tactile signed language and Annie Sullivan provided tactile interpretation.

Captioning as a Form of Interpretation

This used to be just Computer Assisted Real-Time Transcription (CART), in which a transcriber would hear what was being said and type it into a computer which would display it on screen for the person who needed it.

Now, though, with live, automatic captions being rather ubiquitous, captioning can be done via CART or automatically (AI-generated). It’s important to know though that if you need captions for something important (like your health, employment situation, legal matters) or something that you do not want to take chances in getting wrong, CART, performed by a real person, is the way to go.

High Quality, Qualified Interpreters

By providing multiple methods of interpretation that meet the needs of individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, an interpretation that qualifies under the ADA ensures that we can all access information, receive help, and communicate.

Using a professional interpreter is key in ensuring that communication both accurately and effectively conveys the intent and meaning behind the words being spoken. A qualified interpreter will be able to navigate any potential misunderstandings and ensure that both parties involved are on the same page. With ADA interpreters providing this critical service, more of us will have access to meaningful communication experiences. This is an essential part of creating an inclusive environment for all people.

There are a lot of types of interpreting for deaf, hard of hearing and deaf-blind individuals, with the most common being sign language, oral interpreters, cued Speech Interpreters, and tactile interpreters. Those are the main types of ADA interpretation available for deaf, hard of hearing, and deaf-blind individuals, with captioning counting as well.

Sign language interpreters use American Sign Language (ASL) to translate spoken words to signed words while oral interpreters “voice” what is being communicated using their vocalizations in conjunction with facial expressions and gestures. Cued speech interpreters use hand signals combined with mouth movements and tactile interpreting communicates through physical contact such as touch or movement. Captioning transcribes what is being said into text.

None of these types of interpreting for deaf, hard of hearing and deaf-blind people will eradicate listening fatigue, but they will make it all a little easier, a little more bearable, and communication far more effective.

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