Why Do Qualified Sign Language Interpreters Get Less Work?

November 12, 2013

How has the professionalization of interpreting impacted interpreter referral? Kendra Keller takes a hard look at the bypass of traditional entry into the interpreting field and offers ideas to reset and recharge key stakeholders in service provision.

In a recent conversation with Tom Holcomb about certified vs. qualified sign language interpreters, he said something that surprised me. He shared that approximately 90% of the interpreters referred to work with him outside of his professional faculty position and public presentations, were not certified. From inside my bubble of privilege and pursuit of my own credentials and qualifications, this was shocking.

I took a minute and then asked, “What type of appointments?” Tom replied, “Trips to the doctor, consultations about house and home, travel, and school meetings.” Thinking to myself that perhaps I’d been mistaken about the value of certification to Tom and the referral services that sent the interpreters I asked how these appointments had gone.  He said, “I was just glad someone showed up…he presumed that most good interpreters were already busy with other assignments.”

Bypassing Traditional Routes of Entry

We all have experiences where certification does not always equal qualified or ensure quality work.  Tom said that the overall quality of the interpreters was “so-so.”   I suggested to Tom that there were qualified, certified interpreters who were not being referred. To which he responded, “if good interpreters are being passed over and consequently I’m forced to settle for less…I may have a different attitude about what to expect.” The realities we spoke of surprised us both.

Do consumers of our service really expect less?  I think they do.

I believe we can attribute the current state of affairs to many factors—all of which are tied to how we have chosen to meet the demand for the service we provide. As we know the demand for interpreters has skyrocketed. In response, a supply chain was created that has shifted the influx and approval for readiness of sign language interpreters out of the hands of the deaf community, as expressed in Molly Wilson’s vlog “Bypass” (Bypass, Molly Wilson). We have created a detour, a diversion and it is having a powerful impact on all of us. This bypass has excluded necessary and important voices regarding the quality of interpreting services.

How does this bypass practically play out so folks like Tom have experiences that create the experience and perspective that they are required to “settle?”

The Referral Agency 

Since the spring of 2012, we in the northern California area have been holding forums to assess and remediate the impact of spoken language agencies on the quality of interpreting services.  The advent of spoken language agencies taking on the contracts for ASL interpreter referrals combined has created financial struggles for our traditional referral agencies.  Competition is forcing the referral of less expensive interpreters—the non-certified or less experienced.

Through a survey of colleagues throughout the greater San Francisco Bay area, across the board they feel that as their qualifications and experience increase, the amount of work through referral sources has decreased. Sign language agency forums are reporting that they indeed are cutting back on referring the more qualified interpreters (and I include CDIs and DIs here), due to cost and the current threat to the agencies’ economic survival.  Our seasoned interpreters are struggling to find enough freelance work and resorting to other sources of income and employment.

Increased Use of Non-Certified Interpreters

If qualified interpreters are facing a decline in work and non-certified interpreters are being called more frequently, what does that say about the value of experience and certification?  Does it matter if the majority of interpreters who are being referred are not certified? What is the balance of availability and access with qualifications?  While imperfect, the current certifications at both national and state levels are our measure of readiness to begin working as interpreters.

Who are the non-certified and what is the relationship to quality and the definition (legal-ADA- and professional) of qualified? What is the experience of people who use/work with interpreters of quality? What are we doing to learn about, include and support them, or to assess their impact on both the interpreting and Deaf communities?

Interpreter Preparation Programs

When IPPs and ITPs do not include dynamic and responsive curriculum designs, qualified faculty and engage in an active participation of and by the Deaf community, the bypass model is reinforced. IPP students and newer interpreters are being actively recruited by spoken language agencies, sometimes for full time work and often for work in medical settings. Faculty and coordinators have a responsibility to shape a school–to–work expectation of graduates. These students are the most vulnerable to undeveloped professional judgment and the capacity to say “no” when appropriate.

Are the values of fluency and active engagement with the Deaf community being upheld? Are program coordinators and faculty discussing the changing nature of gatekeeping and creating a response in alliance with the Deaf community? Are working interpreters able to respond to increased work demand while maintaining a relationship with the Deaf community? There are many new demands that we must respond to, together.

Credentialed Interpreter

What is the status of highly credentialed interpreters (including CDIs and DIs) in your area? Are the experienced and most qualified interpreters finding work which sustains them?

The obvious impact with less qualified, credentialed interpreters working is that true access to communication is more likely to be denied.

Our Responsibility

As we are being requested to work by a burgeoning number of spoken language referral agencies, online marketplaces, temp agencies, direct contracts and direct referrals from colleagues places more of the responsibility on the individual interpreter to exercise professional judgment in assessing skills and qualifications. For example, are we quick to accept an assignment and slow or neglect to assess our readiness before, during and after the assignment? We need the work. Does that need outweigh the rights of deaf people (and hearing consumers) to effective communication?

How do we Remodel and Rebuild?

Values and Collective Change

As the true cost of the bypasses becomes evident, where does the healing process begin?  Understanding the problem is key, so that we can design the solutions together. In his book, “Introduction to American Deaf Culture”, Tom Holcomb refers to “The Vibrant Deaf Community’, and ‘Solutions for Effective Living’.  I ask us to remember to work together to create vibrant solutions.

Here are some ideas about how to do this:

Safe Spaces. Create places and effective ways to speak out.  I believe it is inherently unhelpful to demonize any one person, group of people, the system, or to claim that experiences that are outliers are the norm. While there is power in speaking out and having a voice, I believe the forum of public or social media, which, while a critical place to have a voice when other avenues are closed or nonexistent, will not necessarily encourage the individual conversations needed for healing and improvement.

Ask Questions. Decide which questions to ask. Are we talking about our competencies, are interpreters literate in the language of qualifications and certification, as well as the factors which make up quality interpretation?

Reflective Practice. Establish a reflective practice, which is a compassionate, critical analysis of our work. Develop a process and language for doing so. Use any of the many ways that already exist: The Etna Project, supervision by trained facilitators, facilitated conversations with all stakeholders in your home communities, the  Demand Control Schema, the northern California project Improving Interpreting Project” (ImprovingInterpretingProject@gmail.com), which provides draft documents for agencies, consumers and interpreters.  Seek out and use your own community’s cultural wealth, especially DCCW, Deaf community cultural wealth.

Through reflective practice, I believe interpreters can and should address these challenges and create effective solutions. To begin, I ask us to think about what motivates the values that we uphold or deprioritize in each decision we make. If we are mostly afraid and functioning on a survival level, how can we create a focus on the greater good, co-create solutions for these changing times?


Here are a few of the values and important factors in my work that I think about and that I think are important for consideration.  What are yours?

Do no harm. Stephanie Feyne, in her article: “Is it Time to Certify Sign Language Interpreter Referral Agencies?” addresses the harm done by agencies:

“Alarmingly, sign language referral agencies are sending increasing numbers of unqualified signers to interpret for Deaf consumers, causing harm to the communities we serve and to the interpreting field…. many of the sign language interpreters on their rosters are self-professed “interpreters,” who have passed no screening or certification exams.”

Encourage. Promote interpreter availability through teaching, mentoring, supervision, teaming, opening the door and welcoming newer interpreters in a way appropriate to their level of professional development.

Contribute. Have standards, opinions, being a critical thinker, while avoiding black and white, right/wrong thinking and judgmental language.

Take Action. Be aware of and take action to stop and to prevent the horizontal violence, micro-, meso- and macro-aggressions evident and experienced by so many in our field and communities.

Use Whole Language. Uphold and practice the use of whole language, ASL, especially as a non-native language user.

Take off the Blinders. Take off the blinders and ask to know the impact of my privileged status.

Reflective Practice.  Engage in reflective practice to continue professional development and self-assessment.

Professional Literacy. Develop and refine the ability to negotiate both in social and professional settings, which requires one to be literate in the language of professional standards.

Seek Guidance. Seek feedback and guidance from the deaf and coda communities…without making them responsible to manage my interpreting skills or advocate while trying to live their lives.

Accept Change. Sit with the discomfort of change, share the control, and be willing to move through feelings of disorientation before the reconstruction and reorientation into a stronger self.

Collective Change

In this I include agencies (by which I mean sign language, spoken language, temp agencies, VRS agencies, and online marketplaces):

Become involved within your communities for input about interpreting needs and concerns.

Find and work with consultants and mentors who are content experts, native users of ASL, and mentors trained and experienced in mentoring and supervision.

Request/Refer qualified interpreters, including CDIs when needed and appropriate, to provide/receive quality interpreting.

Look to all the stakeholders to guide the process.

Support non-certified interpreters in their process to become certified.  Understand why they are not yet certified.

Work to uphold the value and requirement of certification.

What Should Tom Expect?

If the experience is relief that someone showed up to interpret and that all the good interpreters are busy, how do we get from there to a world where someone who is truly qualified to interpret shows up and the more common experience is that the interpreting went well? Where qualified interpreters, quality interpreters are the expectation—the norm?

If we addressed our bypass practices, what would that look like for each of us? What could we expect?  A few thoughts:

  • To be included in a shared decision making process about communication dynamics and language preferences, to have a voice in the process.
  • To understand what is required to be a part of successfully interpreted communication.
  • To understand that a qualified interpreter means the focus of the communication shifts away from concerns about being understood and being represented accurately, to the actual communication.

Let’s remember what Paddy Ladd suggested in his Deafhood Pedagogies presentation, he cites Dr. Marie Battiste in saying that cognitive imperialism inflicts a soul wound on indigenous peoples… “We all must become critical learners and healers within a wounded space.”  I would apply this to interpreters and the ever more urgent need for self-assessment of our qualifications and quality of our work.

Responsibility begins with being responsive.  Engage.  Begin, resume, or continue the dialogue.  Take the time to ask vital questions of our communities and our selves. Define the problem together.  It is time to ask…and listen to the answers.

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49 Comments on "Why Do Qualified Sign Language Interpreters Get Less Work?"

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Great article, Kendra. Oh, I’d like to inform you that the ITP itself does drill the Demand-Control and similar schematics into our head so that we are conditioned to use those skills after we graduate. We are required to look at our work and critique ourselves as well as others. So, we learn how to assess strengths and weaknesses (that require improving) and give and get a balanced critique. If we do not carry these practices evaluation schematics with us then it is not the problem of the ITP but the individual interpreter. If I had any complaint about student… Read more »

Thank you, Kevin, for sharing your IPP experiences with the DC-S and what you see of value to student and new interpreters in understanding Deaf culture. Do you think that engaging in supervision or a reflective practice discussion would benefit us if we have not had exposure to frameworks like DC-S or had the chance to practice it? As well, to share resources as you mention?

Terri Hayes
The whole topic just makes me tired. I’m one of the more experienced… and actually a pretty good interpreter. And I’m one of those that the Deaf people never (or rarely) get to see. I cannot complain publicly – because to complain right after saying “I’m good” is basically to be interpreted as “I’m probably not that good – after all – otherwise – I’d be working.” (and so my lack of work is probably attitude) So whatever. I work some (a few hours a week) I teach some (just so nobody out there thinks I’m one of them experienced… Read more »
Terri Hayes
and one more thing – there are not-yet-certified interpreters out there which represent one set of difficulties – but there are an entirely different set of not certfied interpreters out there – not certfied (uhhh – what’s that?!)… not qualified (oh! I learned to sign at my church and then somebody asked me to interpret and I got paid for it and I’ve been doing this now for several years! – certification? never heard of it? back to school? Why? I’m already working! surely I’ll be grandfathered or something)… The interpreters who are not members of the club .. who… Read more »
Hello Terri – and thank you for all you’ve said. I see the frustration and loss of hope. I understand your belief that things will never change. At times I’ve felt the same way and realize it’s a casualty of the bypasses we’ve taken and created as a profession. While I don’t expect that every seasoned interpreter needs to take on newer interpreters, literally – I do come to terms with what’s happening out there by looking back to my community to help make a difference. I also write my thoughts, as you have – and ask for ideas as… Read more »
Terri Hayes
What would be my legacy… and my hope? That interpreters could understand – in their bones and represent in their work that: …Deaf people cannot hear. (So vicarious information will not be used to support the gaps in your interpretation – if you didn’t sign it – they didn’t get it.) …20 years of experience is not equivalent to 20 years of doing it right. …If you do it right – the Deaf people will love you, but the agencies will not use you as much (because the deaf, in loving you will begin to show a preference) and its… Read more »
I am grateful for your honesty and will include your ideas and experiences in the work to create change. I hope that up and coming interpreters and deaf people and interpreters who are not yet taking responsibility for their work will recognize the tremendous legacy of interpreters and everyone in our communities who continues to care. There has been much voicing of discouragement in response to this article. I get it – and that talking and discussion and the attempt to speak truthfully without diminishing others is perhaps a fruitless and hopeless effort…and something compels me to keep trying. I… Read more »
Phyllis Bullon
Texas is in the process of lobbying for a change of what “qualified” means for this state… The goal is to move from certification to licensing. It made it all the way to the floor during our last legislation session, but did not get through the process. The verbiage associated with the House Bill included proposed fines and jail time for practicing without a license for assignments other than (I believe it said) religious and social. There is even speculation of some situation specific licenses. I applaud these efforts. I don’t think that spoken language interpreting agencies should be allowed… Read more »
Phyllis – thank you for the energy toward effecting change. I appreciate the update on the state of Texas, who has been one of the states to lead the way in state certification and qualifications of interpreters, and the idea to change the way the ADA is carried out to define and provide qualified interpreters. We are large in numbers as a profession, and there is power in those numbers to create change. It is my hope that the dialogue leads to actions – “Doable” actions as created for the community forum held during the recent RID conference. Actions each… Read more »

[…] Kendra Keller suggests the by-pass model of practice created by the frenetic demand for sign language interpreters leaves the most qualified of practitioners out of work.  […]

I think it has more to do with the experienced interpreters already working elsewhere and the fact that they are paid more sometimes leads other people to hire less qualified terps. It has happened here because we have a Sorenson call center and almost all the experienced terps have migrated to that place (steady pay and hours)if they’re not already working for the schools. So when those experienced interpreters have time, they will work for the sole interpreting agency. The agency is having a tough time finding qualified staff because we’re a mid sized town in the middle of Kansas… Read more »

Hi, Ted – this is indeed an issue for many parts of the U.S. I have spoken with many interpreters who have gone to working in VRS and the schools (colleges and universities), who used to have full time freelance practices. It makes sense that we put this into the mix of issues in our conversation as we try to create change, especially for rural areas where there are fewer interpreters over all. Thank you for your perspective. Are there actions being taken within your community to address this change?


I did indeed end up going to work for Sorenson and the public schools because I was not being offered enough work from the freelance agencies. When I had a QA III, they offered me a ton of work. As soon as I got nationally certified, they offered me and a bunch of my highly qualified colleagues about half the work. Also, no benefits, didn’t pay in taxes, no paid sick days, etc. Those are the main reasons I see for highly qualified interpreters leaving freelance practice and going to work for VRS or the schools.

Monica Romney
Kendra, I truly appreciate your article. This is an issue that’s baffled me from my very first days working as an interpreter. In the ITP I attended, it was always explained that the agencies first send requests to the most qualified interpreters and then work their way down the list of interpreters as they try to fill positions. In my naiveté about agency practices, I assumed that when I was contacted, the list had been exhausted. It wasn’t until much later that I learned I was being contacted while the top interpreters were not. It made me ill to think… Read more »

Monica, thank you! Beautifully expressed, and so many important points from your experiences to actions. Systemic change, multiple paths which are being taken where each f us is a necessary component to create change. I appreciate that you have persisted, did find the mentoring you needed, and then have brought change to your community by creating a mentor center, a secure environment, the honest dialogues which lead us to action. Thank you for saying it so well and for all you are doing and inspiring to be done.


Is there any empirical, quantitative evidence that this is happening systematically? Or is all the evidence anecdotal?

Monica Romney

Good question. I’d be interested to see real numbers on this, too. The anecdotes are pretty damaging on their own. Maybe having some stats would give us more perspective on this issue. Sounds like a fantastic research project.

Hi Matt – I think research is definitely needed, as my information is anecdotal and informal surveying of colleagues within my state/community. At this point, I am only aware of anecdotal evidence. My initial purpose here was to talk about our ability to gauge our qualifications individually and on the community, state, national and professional levels. Not considering our own readiness has impacted us in many ways, one of which is changing employment of qualified interpreters. Research into the myriad factors would be very helpful toward measuring the problem, defining it, and instituting change. I will do a search with… Read more »
Although I found this article interesting I think it is very dependent on the state where one lives. I’m in Florida, the retirement state, where no one seems to care and no one wants to complain about the interpreter services provided by these “young” interpreters or the spoken language agencies just blindly sending people out to jobs. I am highly qualified and work basically part time while the less qualified interpreters are working 40 hour weeks. Why is this? Cause they are cheaper and since the Deaf community refuses to take action and stand up for themselves these lesser qualified,… Read more »
Hi Michelle – thank you for explaining your experiences in Florida. It is always sad to hear yet another experienced interpreter’s discouragement. There are many projects, task forces and efforts underway to address the agency accountability issues and to promote safe and effective ways people can give feedback and have input into better quality services. There are references in the article and in other articles here and I’m happy to send you any resources I have. I think personally that it is key to encourage and require self assessment and supervision so that the onus is on interpreters to look… Read more »
Jean Clarkson
As one of the interpreters from the 1970s and an established relationship with many places who hire interpreters for occasional staff meetings I was surprised about five years ago when I was called by an agency in Texas looking for an interpreter for a federal agency I found out that the Texas agency had a contract to supply interpreters for this federal agency. Since then I have been receiving voice calls and now, more frequently emails from foreign language agencies. I have not responded to any of the emails, but it upsets me that they are enchroching on our local… Read more »

Hello there Jean – if you send an email to improvinginterpretingproject@gmail.com you will receive an automatic reply with a link to some draft documents which include expectations of agencies. I have a set of basic screening questions for spoken language or general service agencies and our findings from a spoke language agency panel we had that I am happy to send you if you send me an email. Hope these references are helpful – keep in touch.


Let me add that these documents are drafts, and are meant for soliciting feedback as part of a process we’ve undertaken here to work with our community to deal with the agency issues and improve the quality of interpreted experiences.

Shonna Magee

I have 4 certifications and left the field for this very reason. I’ll stay gone until all states get it together and require credentials like they do for every other profession.


Shonna – I’m sorry that it became so untenable that we lost you as part of our profession and I know others who have made similar decisions. I do see the number of people speaking up or beginning to listen and work for change, inspiring. We’ve been coming at these issues in different ways for a long time, and standing on the foundation of many great works and research and advocacy since our inception as a profession. I only hope these growing pains lead us to greater insights and broader actions for change. Thank you for speaking up.

Alyssa Vaisey
I moved to Arizona last summer from Rochester and I can certainly attest that this situation differs depending on your location. Arizona requires that interpreters obtain a license. If interpreters are certified, then they get a full license. If, however, they are not certified, they get a provisional license. The basic provisional license requires that they never work alone. After working for a certain amount of time, they are allowed to work alone, but still have to work with a mentor. Many agencies won’t use provisional interpreters at all, and other agencies require more than the state, requiring that provisional… Read more »
Great point, Alyssa. Lots of bright minds working on this one – and here’s a quote from a conversation with Austin Andrews that didn’t make it into the article, which I think helps my approach to this problem of certification and qualification. An eloquent distinction between qualification and certification: “I believe that qualification is context- and consumer-based. Certification is provider-based. In some cases, certification meets qualification. Many times, it does not. Determining qualification requires collaboration on the state, agency, requestor-of-service, consumer-of-service and individual interpreter level; certification, not so much. I do believe that it would be ideal for certification to… Read more »
This is really a wonderful article and I did experience this as a freelance interpreter in Michigan. When I worked and my sole income was freelance agency work, I noticed a decline in the assignments I was being called in for after I became nationally certified (instead of a QA III) instead of the expected opposite. The same happened to a group of my highly qualified colleagues. When we asked for a meeting with the agency owner and interpreter scheduler we were told that we were being held on reserve for the more complex interpreting assignments, while the less qualified… Read more »
Thank you Christine. The more experiences we share and document, the stronger the information base to work from, for change, with all the stakeholders’ well being in mind. It’s great that you spoke with the agency owner and scheduler to verify what was happening. Agencies are struggling to survive, some of them, and the business model is being challenged by online marketplaces like Linguabee and Vineya and others – and by those who believe that even agencies will be a thing of the past. It’s an interesting time in the marketplace. We’ve held community forums, panels with spoken and sign… Read more »
I love this article! Thanks Kendra for getting a much needed discussion going. I work at an agency that uses only nationally certified interpreters and puts a heavy focus on using the most qualified interpreters. After reading this I’m realizing that the way we work is the exact opposite of the agencies you have described. One thing I have noticed is that the Deaf consumers have more power than they realize. When a consumer makes an appointment and provides our business card, requesting an interpreter from us, the doctor, dentist, or prospective employer almost always procures an interpreter from us…and… Read more »
PJ, you have hit the nail on the head here! It’s good to know that the agency you work for is upholding the standard of certification. It’s often too easy to blame consumers and newer interpreters, and even agencies – rather, where does the breakdown occur, what is the reality of our expectations? You’ve articulated this so well, and this goes a long way in designing ways to follow through when those standards aren’t met. The simple solution of giving consumers contact information via business card or other means, is brilliant and supports the consumer as a source of information… Read more »

Brilliant dialogue, Kendra.

In my (rural) state, interpreters are being inundated with requests from spoken language agencies bidders on local (mostly medical) contracts. We’ve started a dialogue here to discuss how we can respond to and vet these bid/assignment requests while asking pertinent questions, such as “what is your agency’s investment in the Deaf community?”

I’ve shared your article with my colleagues. Thank you, Kendra for the great article, and thank you StreetLeverage for the platform to share it!

Hilary Mayhew
Hi Holly– Can I ask where you’re located? I’m really glad these dialogues are happening in various communities. Many of us are seeing this “encroachment” because federal and state governments are trying to streamline their contracting process. They prefer a one-stop-shop for language services and put out a Request For Proposals that calls for service providers who’ll meet XYZ Agency’s need for any language, at any of their regional/national office locations. Typical sign language agencies obviously cannot bid on such contracts. Many parallel efforts are happening to respond to this change. I’m wondering how we can best knit together our… Read more »

Hello Holly! Thank you for your kind comments. If there’s anything we can offer to your area in support of the dialogue and vetting of spoken language agency requests/bids, from our experiences and draft documents, please let me know. Hope to see you before too much time goes by!

Hi! Wanted to add…Here is something I’d like to see: Agencies having a policy to fill jobs with certified interpreters and prioritizing those independent contracting interpreters as preferred vendors based on 1. certification level 2. years of contracting in good standing 3. Positive feedback from customers/consumers (repeat requests, feedback post assignment, etc…) Here is what bothers me. I work for MANY years faithfully interpreting at all hours of the day, sacrificing to fill jobs, driving miles and miles. I support the agency by providing referrals. A new interpreter comes to town and my work load IMMEDIATELY drops to 1/2? of… Read more »
Hi there Shelly – Newer comments have just brought me back to this and I see my earlier response to you didn’t post. I apologize for that. Thanks for sharing your experiences too… and I think it helps to bring the community together to address this issue. We are seeing some benefit here in the San Francisco bay area by pulling together panels of spoken language agencies and sign language agencies and community forums to discuss this problem. Our next effort will be an all day session of focus groups (Deaf, CDIs, hearing interpreters and interpreters with deaf families), to… Read more »
Interesting that this discussion is being phrased as “more qualified = less work”. I suspect the proximal cause is “higher rates = less work”. There’s strong assumption here that more qualified = higher rates, but that’s not being made explicit. Do you negotiate with agencies even as freelancer? Offer to lower your hourly for a semester-long class or two full weeks of work? Do you choose ethical agencies over unethical ones? Do you as a freelancer want a staff position with benefits, sick pay, etc if it means that you work for that agency exclusively and have to follow their… Read more »
Risa Orellana
I attempted to do this in the pre video days, but it’s tricky. I was looking for stability and benefits. The agencies could not even give that to themselves, with few exceptions. So I just went ahead and freelanced, but I still got cut out of things for having certification. I actually tried to dump my certification in order to get some of the work back. At one particular university, (one we all know), in a year when we had received two raises, neither of which we asked for, but which they needed in order to remain “competitive with local… Read more »

Also, we all know that certification is only strongly correlated with qualification. There are certified terps who aren’t very good and there are uncertified interpreters who are *extremely* qualified. To legislate a “certified first” policy would be counterproductive to the best interests of our clients and our profession.


Exactly! Bravo Pat E.

Hi Pat, and Anonymous! Again, apologies for the delay in my responding. The issues you raise and the perspective are critical to discussing this further and determining the causes so we can take on the right approaches to resolution. It’s such an important point about certification and qualification. I’m reposting a statement by Austin Andrews, a colleague who says this very well: “I believe that qualification is context- and consumer-based. Certification is provider-based. In some cases, certification meets qualification. Many times, it does not. Determining qualification requires collaboration on the state, agency, requestor-of-service, consumer-of-service and individual interpreter level; certification, not… Read more »

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Whitney Plummer
Fascinating article, I am glad I came across it. My initial response to this before any thought was a bit of discouragement — I thought to myself, “Is this how it’s going to be as I become more experience and seek certification? Will this arrival at this “place” of being a certified/qualified interpreter really result in just being ‘cycled out’ by fresher blood? Scary to think about. I was able to relate with your section about bypassing traditional routes, and I do have very mixed feelings about this. First, with truly altruistic motives, I think that this approach is very… Read more »
Whitney, I appreciate your reading the article and your considered response. Thank you for being one of those willing to take a look at how an individual interpreter’s decisions impact the community and each other, and for being willing to speak up about it. There’s a lot to continue to dialogue about in the approach to “on the job training” that we use at times as a strategy for readiness to work gaps and it is critical to co-construct strategies which do not require the deaf (and hearing) people we work with to shoulder the weight of our learning when… Read more »
Hi Kendra – thank you for the thoughtful and well written article. As interpreters, maybe we need to look at how we can contribute to changing the model of how an interpreter is requested. The current model gives the hiring authority to the interpreter agency and the entity paying for services. This model is almost entirely in the power and control of hearing people – most of which know nothing about the Deaf community. We might want to take a look back to our roots – the pre-ADA model of interpreter requests. Deaf people held the decision making authority. As… Read more »
Katie Mittler

I really truly think that Interpreters should get qualified so they can teach the Deaf community on what they know about sign language. If everybody else has to get qualified, then interpreters should do so. Deaf people are lost without their interpreters because they cant sign for them because they are not qualified. I really think that is really mean and put down for the deaf people.

Amanda Spangler
Experienced interpreters are important, but I feel like they should all be certified. I hear some interpreters say they are interpreters, but they aren’t certified and for me that’s really wrong. We expect other people in other professions to be certified, for example a doctor. We expect them to be board certified to treat their patients and if they aren’t they could go to jail. I don’t think uncertified interpreters should go to jail, but I don’t think they shouldn’t be able to interpret for Deaf people. I read Mr. Holcomb’s book “Introduction to American Deaf Culture”. It was a… Read more »
I found this article on a search for a particular sign while looking for an image of it to utilize in my ASL instruction at a state college where I am a professor of ASL for last four years. I read the article then many of the comments and have a perspective that may have been voiced already, but feel compelled to put in my “two cents”. As an interpreter (working with/for the Deaf since 1997) I run into this certified versus qualified versus experienced issue plenty. I am not certified. I am qualified and experienced. My Deaf clients are… Read more »
ADS, I am quite taken aback by the sheer gall of your post. I understand the “Qualified vs Certified”conundrum is the age old debate within this profession…and I am not interested in futile debates or rehashing arguments. Here is my issue…According to you, you have been in this profession since 1997- same as myself. Equating to 19 years total. According to you, you have self-labeled yourself qualified based on the “Deaf clients” (Which is another argument…preferred term is “consumer”.) Fair enough. But that is very of long standing and skilled and Interpreters. Your post alluded your self-perceived validation of skill… Read more »

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