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Working with Sign Interpreters for Deaf Students


This information is available to download in a word document - Working with Sign Interpreters for Deaf Students.

Interpreters are present in your classroom to allow the student who is Deaf or hard of hearing access to information. Their jobs are well-defined with boundaries set in place to ensure that your role as the teacher is not impinged upon.

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Role of the Interpreter

The role of the Interpreter is to:

  • Interpret any communication between people, without addition or deletion of content
  • Provide culturally appropriate information relevant to the interpreting process
  • State whether the message has been successfully delivered through the interpreting process
  • The interpreter must treat information that they interpret as confidential

It is not the interpreter’s role to:

  • Liaise between the student, teacher and Disability Services other than by direct interpretation
  • Act as a teacher's aide or tutor
  • Add comments or participate in the class
  • Have private conversations during class time with either the teacher or the students
  • Be responsible for student behaviour or academic results
  • Discuss the student's progress
  • Let their own opinion influence the information
  • Interact with students, teachers or other members of the class
  • Answer questions intended for the students
  • Correct the teacher
  • Breach confidentiality or repeat hearsay


Expected behaviour and attitude:

  • Reliability and punctuality
  • Respect for the student and their choices
  • Encouraging independence and positive self-esteem
  • Honouring the student's rights to dignity, privacy and confidentiality
  • To be as inconspicuous as possible in the class situation


How teaching staff can best assist

Before Class:

  • Please contact Disability Services if classes are changed or cancelled. Whenever possible, provide 24 hours notice so that we can inform the staff.
  • Meet the interpreter beforehand to discuss special vocabulary or acronyms that may be used and, if possible, provide lesson notes prior to class.
  • Interpreters working alone need to stop interpreting for a 5 minutes after 50 minutes of interpreting. It is helpful if you can structure your teaching accordingly. This 'break' may include any non-audible task such as practical work, working from exercise books, reading from the text, showing a captioned video. If there are two Interpreters, they will alternate to allow each of them breaks.

During Classes

  • The interpreter should be located near the hearing person so as the deaf person can see both.
  • Speak directly to the deaf person and look at him/her - not at the interpreter.
  • Allow the deaf student time to receive the message, make comment and/or seek clarification.
  • Be aware that the deaf student cannot look at you, the interpreter and/or the notes at the same time.
  • Speak in your usual manner and rate, but be willing to slow down if the interpreter is unable to keep up.
  • Pace yourself when reading or provide the student with a copy to read for themselves. Reading speed will be too fast for the interpreter to absorb and translate.
  • Do not ask the interpreter to interpret only selected portions of what is said.
  • Do not ask the interpreter to provide advice to the deaf person or about the deaf person.
  • Ensure that only one person speaks at a time, i.e. group discussions can pose problems.
  • Do not include the interpreter in classroom activities.