Why Not a Sign Language Interpreter Bill of Rights?

November 3, 2011


As outside forces seek to control sign language interpreter rates of pay, professional standards, and hiring practices, Brandon Arthur drafts a Sign Language Interpreter’s Bill of Rights.

If you haven’t seen it, you soon will.  Due to economic pressures, businesses and individuals hiring interpreters are challenging (and attempting to redefine) our rates, standard practices, and national credentials.

In my view, if we handle these challenges poorly we will be putting the foundation of our industry at risk.

So, what do we do?  Why not an Interpreter Bill of Rights?  I know it may seem a little crazy, but service providers in other industries have them, why not sign language interpreters?

What comes next certainly isn’t perfect, but it’s a start.  Care to add?

Sign Language Interpreter Bill of Rights

Statement of Rights

An interpreter accepting an assignment to deliver sign language interpreting services has the right to:

  1. Be treated with respect and dignity, regardless of their race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, disability or sexual orientation.
  2. Receive, in advance, sufficient information about the D/deaf customer and the terms of the assignment in order to determine suitability.
  3. Know the name(s), if any, of any other interpreter(s) already engaged for the assignment, and to decline the assignment based on such information.
  4. Deliver services in a manner that honors customer preference, complies with industry standard practices, and allows for active support of team interpreter(s).
  5. Be told, in advance, of any changes to the terms of an assignment and to have the opportunity to confirm agreement to these changes.
  6. Decline an offer to provide services for any reason or no reason.
  7. Have personal, compensation, and credentialing information kept confidential, and to be advised of the disclosure of such information.
  8. Request the information and methodology used to determine rate of compensation.
  9. Request prompt payment for services rendered.
  10. Work in an environment free from physical and verbal abuse.
  11. Seek replacement on an assignment where:
    • Customer or co-interpreter’s conduct alters the terms or conditions of an assignment, or creates an abusive or unsafe environment; or
    • An emergency or a significant change in the interpreter’s health has resulted in an inability to provide effective services
  12. Voice concerns and/or grievances to the coordinating entity regarding the provision of service in connection with the assignment, or regarding a lack of courtesy or respect for the interpreter.
  13. Assert these rights personally, without retaliation.
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15 Comments on "Why Not a Sign Language Interpreter Bill of Rights?"

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I really like this idea. We should have a Bill of Rights.

You ask if anyone cares to add to this.

I will point you to the Bill of Rights for Nurses at:

One point is that we are both in a “helping / caring” profession, the second point is that we should pare this down. 13 points, while all salient, are too many to be taken seriously.

I would be happy to help work on this, I think it is a good cause.


There is an interpreter’s bill of rights already, but it hasn’t been published. I have permission from the author to use it in my courses. Please get in touch so we can have a great discussion!


I would also like a copy of this Bill of Right’s. Thank you.


[…] on the worldview of those who generate revenue for the company, you looked to a […]


Where can we all get access to this Bill of Rights?

Stephanie Feyne

I think when Deaf consumers have a Bill of Rights then interpreters will. RIght now when agencies get to send the cheapest labor and make the most profit, it is the Deaf consumer who suffers far more than interpreters.
If we secure their rights I believe interpreters’ rights will be respected.

One other point – the nurses also have a great patient-based Code of Ethics.
I think it all goes together.

Tamara Moxham

I would add: “be made aware of an agency’s collection policies if their policy includes not paying sub-contractors until they get paid by clients”


Tamara – I think that is an excellent and very important disclosure if applicable.


I would add that at the court level, there should be a type of Bill of Rights that clarifies the ability or lack-there-of for interpreters taking the stand via subpoena as a witness.

As an “expert witness” hired by an attorney, obviously that would be a different story.

Karen Wagner

Hi ! I am not sure if y’all are aware of UN CPRD …pls use this link for more info….
AND in order to save your interpretering jobs, please
contact your US Senators to have them join the other nations of the world in ratifying the CRPD go to: http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm
For a sample letter go to –
Audism Free America scroll down http://audismfreeamerica.blogspot.com/2012/07/urge-ur-us-senators-to-ratify-un-crpd.html
National Association of the Deaf scroll down http://www.nad.org/news/2012/7/crpd-passes-committee-vote-next-stop-senate-floor….THANKS !

Forward-looking organizations committed to retelling the story of the interpreter.



(New York)