UpCycling the CPC: Role Space and the Reasonable Interpreter Standard

August 4, 2015

In search of the “Reasonable Interpreter Standard”… Re-thinking the NAD-RID Code of Professional Conduct with a fresh look at current best practices, recognition of role-space, advocacy and social media ethics.

Hurray! The RID Code of Professional Conduct Review Committee report came out on 6/23/2015! Many of us are eagerly awaiting a revised CPC. After reading through it, I felt inspired to sit down and draft a document which constitutes my approach to the intricacies of ethical practice, both philosophically and pragmatically, in my daily community sign language interpreting work.

[Click to view post in ASL]

This proposed draft is the fruit of fantastic input from a variety of sources (listed below) and also from the sometimes painful juxtaposition of the perceived proper role of a professional interpreter and an outdated CPC. As an interpreter who works for a variety of agencies and entities over a large geographic area, this proposed CPC is more compatible with my collective experiences over the past 26 years as an ASL interpreting practitioner and attempts to address many of the concerns raised in the recent CPC Review Committee report.

Your input and perspectives are invaluable! Share your thoughts on this important topic that has far reaching implications for individual interpreters and the community at large.

Thank you!

Code of Professional Conduct for ASL Interpreters (DRAFT)


Interpreting is an art and service profession. Interpreters work to provide access for individuals who do not share a common language or language mode. To demonstrate their commitment to the technical as well as relational components of the work to remove language barriers, respect cultural norms and promote shared communication, RID Certified American Sign Language Interpreters shall adhere to the following professional standards that both guide interpreter conduct and protect the public trust in certified interpreters.


All RID Certified Interpreters are bound to comply with this Code of Ethics. Interpreting students and interns are encouraged to adhere to this Code as pre-professionals, in conjunction with supervision by RID Certified interpreters, mentors and instructors.


1.  Accurate and Complete Interpretation

Each participant’s source language should be faithfully rendered in a manner that conserves and conveys all meaningful elements of the speaker’s message and intent into the target language. A natural prosody that reflects the tone, style and register of the speaker should be employed. The interpreter shall strive for the highest standards of accuracy to enable the parties to clearly communicate with one another and avoid misunderstandings. The interpreter shall make repairs promptly and discreetly. If at any point an interpreter is unable to fulfill this tenet, the interpreter has a duty to either decline or remove her/himself from the assignment. Sight translation of forms and documents is within the scope of practice. Consecutive, simultaneous, team or relay interpreting with an intermediary interpreter are all valid approaches to this task, and the interpreter shall use professional discernment to request a team interpreter to effectuate communication.

2.  Commitment to Autonomy

The interpreter shall constantly strive to support full autonomy of the participants. While some situations may require the interpreter to make adjustments such as improved positioning, lighting or other logistical considerations, the primary focus will be to facilitate  participant autonomy. The interpreter shall avoid interjecting actively into the conversation or message. Exceptions include utterances which constitute social pleasantries, responding to direct questions, management of the interpreted interaction such as checking in with the parties to ensure the interpretation is clearly conveyed and accessible, clarification of content and professional courtesies.   Interpretation is a group activity creating a shared experience, and the interpreter has a duty to interact in ways that are socially responsive, culturally and linguistically inclusive and also maintain an overarching commitment to participant autonomy.

3.  Confidentiality

Privileged or confidential information acquired in the course of interpreting or preparing for an assignment shall not be disclosed by the interpreter without authorization. Data and records shall be handled using current industry standards including password protected computer files, locked cabinets and shredding of obsolete documents. HIPAA laws or any other federal, state or local laws governing information management shall be adhered to strictly. Interpreters work in a variety of settings for a variety of entities. Case studies, which are representative of repeated occurrences within interpreted interactions over time, can be shared with peers for the purpose of analysis and professional development in the same manner that other professionals conduct continuing education with the goal of improved service outcomes. Interpreters may make public comment on public information.

4.  Professional Demeanor

Interpreters shall conduct themselves in a professional manner that engenders respect for all parties. This applies to standards of dress which are conducive to a visually accessible interpretation. For most interactions business casual is appropriate. Identification such as a badge is recommended to assist the parties in readily identifying the working interpreter.  Examples of professional conduct include prompt confirmation of availability, fulfillment of confirmed assignments and punctuality. The interpreter shall maintain appropriate professional boundaries and separate personal from work interactions out of respect for all parties. Social media shall be used judiciously with consideration for all parties with particular attention to maintenance of standards of confidentiality. Obtain permission from all parties before posting shared experiences on social media or online.

5. Collegiality

Interpreters shall strive to work effectively, professionally and in good faith with all colleagues, mentoring partners, interpreting interns and students. Team interpreters shall caucus as needed before, during and post-assignment to ensure an optimal interpretation. Colleagues shall be approached directly, privately, one-on-one, to address any concerns or breaches of ethical conduct. Filing of grievances shall be made only after all other standard conflict resolution methods have been unsuccessful. Every effort shall be made to maintain open, accountable and positive relationships with peers that support full communication access for all parties.

6.  Preparation

Interpreters shall make all necessary efforts to prepare adequately for assignments. This includes obtaining preparation materials such as speeches, meeting agendas, documents, textbooks, police reports, etc., that will promote the most complete and accurate interpretation.

7.  Conflicts of Interest and Role-Space

Interpreters shall avoid conflicts of interest and dual roles which result in diminished capacity to devote full attention to the task of interpreting. The concept of a conflict of interest is well established, and interpreters shall adhere to norms of conflict of interest avoidance, both perceived and actual. Unanticipated conflicts of interest shall be disclosed to the parties promptly. Complete neutrality, or the absence of vested interest is not achievable.  Interpreters are dedicated to effective communication for all parties. However, interpreters can commit to fully participate in the role-space of interpreter to facilitate communication in order to support the parties in reaching their mutual goals of shared exchange.

8.  Professional Development

Interpreters shall maintain RID certification, completing required CEUs within each cycle, and also engage in supplemental continuing education, mentoring, pro-bono work, etc., to promote the furtherance of knowledge and skills within a framework of social justice. Membership and participation in professional organizations is strongly encouraged.

9.  Advocacy and Resource Referral

Interpreters are in a unique position as functional bi-cultural bilinguals. Interpreters shall provide referrals to available and appropriate community resources to support equal access. Interpreters may engage in advocacy services in settings that are separate from the interpreting function and that fall within standards of acceptable professional conduct and do not constitute a conflict of interest.

10.  Functional Maintenance

Interpreting is physically, emotionally and mentally demanding. Interpreters shall make reasonable efforts to ensure that all members of the interpreting team have adequate supports, including breaks, to promote health and longevity in the interpreting field. Interpreters shall decline or discontinue assignments if working conditions are not safe, healthy or conducive to interpreting.

11.  Business Practices

Interpreters shall adhere to the highest standards of ethical business practices which include but are not limited to accurate invoicing, charging reasonable fees for services rendered which constitute a livable wage, payment of taxes, maintenance of licenses and professional liability insurance, etc. Interpreters shall engage in pro-bono interpreting. Interpreters shall refrain from using confidential interpreted information for personal, monetary or professional gain or for the benefit or gain of personal or professional affiliations or entities. Interpreters shall avoid interpreting in settings which involve payment terms that are inconsistent with the Americans with Disabilities Act or any other federal or state law or local statute prohibiting discrimination.

12.  RID ED: K-12

RID Certified ED: K-12 interpreters shall adhere to the most current version of the EIPA Guidelines of Professional Conduct for Educational Interpreters when working in K-12 educational settings.

13.  Court Certified Interpreters

Legal interpreters have an additional level of ethical accountability to the courts and judicial system. Interpreters qualified to work in legal settings by either federal or state regulations or by virtue of RID legal credentialing shall prioritize the applicable court interpreter oath and timely access to due process. Legal interpreters shall strive to comply with current best practices and make statements on the record, requests, disclosures and recommendations that represent current best practices for legal interpreters.

14.  Adherence to Federal, State and Local Law

Interpreters shall abide by all federal, state and local laws which supersede this Code of Professional Conduct.   Interpreters shall fulfill all mandatory reporting duties and respond to subpoenas.

Reasonable Interpreter Standard

No illustrative behaviors are included. All tenets shall be considered using the reasonable professional interpreter standard. If an action, engaged in repeatedly, would promote:

  1. increased autonomy of the parties
  2. effective communication exchanges
  3. encourage public trust in the interpreter’s services

by actions taken in good faith effort adherence to these core tenets, the behavior should characterize that of a reasonable professional interpreter. For further assistance, please contact the RID Ethics Committee.

Questions for Consideration:

  1. Forget about dream vacations…What is your dream CPC?
  2. How do you want to see social media addressed collectively?
  3. Why is a succinct CPC preferable to a 5 page test-prep document?



Llewellyn-Jones, P. & R.G. Lee (2014) Redefining the Role of the Community interpreter: The concept of role-space. Carlton-le-Moorland, UK: SLI Press.

National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators.

Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, Inc.

EIPA: Guidelines for Professional Conduct

Dean, R. K., & Pollard, R. Q (2011). Context-based ethical reasoning in interpreting: A demand control schema perspective. Interpreter and Translator Trainer, 5(1), 155-182.


Collegial Assistance:

Thank you to Xenia Woods, along with the Street Leverage staff, for their willingness to review and provide feedback and edits on this submission! Thank you also to Mr. Ed Alletto for his insightful legal trainings and gentle but direct prompting.


Q:  Why aren’t there any definitions?
A: Unnecessary as this applies to the RID Certified Interpreters.

Q: Why not include the section about “representing qualifications accurately”?
A: Because it is already illegal to misrepresent yourself and this CPC only applies to RID Certified Interpreters

Q:  Why not address VRI/VRS?
A: Unnecessary as this applies to RID Certified interpreters regardless of venue.  Employment requirements are separate from a Code of Professional Conduct, which applies to members of a professional group.

Q:  Why not more illustrative behaviors?
A:  A CPC should be succinct.  This covers the core tenets and should be interpreted using the reasonable interpreter standard, which this version makes more explicit and should strengthen the application of this CPC.   It is not possible to list all applicable illustrative behaviors. It is possible to provide ethical principles with guidelines for making determinations that will result in ethical conduct.  See Model Code of Professional Responsibility for Interpreters in the Judiciary for an example of this format.

Q: Why not discuss the Demand Control Schema?
A: In my opinion, DCS is a is a tool used to manage the interpreting interactions, but is not appropriate in a CPC. Individuals can engage in behaviors that do not match up with the CPC, and then state a need to use certain controls because of demands that are the result of earlier poor choices that could have been avoided. The CPC should stand above the DCS, which then can be used to comply with the CPC. [Edit 8/6/15.]

Q: Why not include a separate tenet for medical interpreters?
A: This may be necessary at a future date if a separate medical certification is added by RID.  At the moment this CPC along with HIPAA laws and contracting terms provide sufficient ethical guidance. (For example: no unsupervised access to clients, and stepping out of exam rooms when patients need additional privacy.)

Q: Why not make this binding for students/interns?
A:  The CPC can only be binding for certified members, who can participate in grievance procedures, be sanctioned and have their professional certifications suspended or revoked. Students may, for example, have a course requirement to adhere to the CPC in order to participate in an internship placement, but do not have a professional duty to adhere to the CPC until achieving certified status.  The number of non-RID certified interpreters working in the field continues to decline, as states adopt requirements for licensure that are predicated upon RID certification. The onus is on the RID Certified interpreter to guide the student/intern to adhere to the CPC.  See the ABA Model Rules for Professional Conduct Rule 5.3 for an example of this supervisory relationship.


* Interested in receiving StreetLeverage posts in your inbox? SignUp!

Stay Current

Want to be among the first to know when we publish new content?

Are you an interpreter?

We respect your privacy.
We will never share your info.


Leave a Reply

30 Comments on "UpCycling the CPC: Role Space and the Reasonable Interpreter Standard"

Notify of
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Robert G. Lee

Hi Shelly

Thanks for the mention of Role Space! Just to clarify, in the reference the citation is not complete. There is one article from 2013 the our book which is 2014. The references are:
Llewellyn-Jones, P. & R.G. Lee (2013) “Getting to the core of role: Defining the role-space of interpreters”, International Journal of Interpreter Education 5(2): 54-72.
Llewellyn-Jones, P. & R.G. Lee (2014) Redefining the Role of the Community interpreter: The concept of role-space. Carlton-le-Moorland, UK: SLI Press.

Best regards


Shelly Hansen

Hi Robert! Thanks for clarification! Absolutely! We need to incorporate research into our CPC. All the best ;o)

Shelly Hansen

Hi! Sorry wanted to add: I had only read your book…I’d never seen the prior article. Also, I am wondering if you have any thoughts on the draft above….is this an appropriate incorporation of role-space into a CPC? Are there any other CPCs in circulation that reference role-space? If so, can you post the link(s) so other viewers can peruse? Thanks!!!

Hello, Robyn Dean here, co-creator of demand control schema. I think in the Q/A there seems to be a misperception in your reflection of DC-S. You only talked about the interaction between demands and controls (i.e., a control can respond to a demand but can still be in violation of the ethical tenets). While someone could misuse the terms associated with DC-S in this way, this is an incorrect portrayal of the totality of our work. DC-S analysis would include an evaluation of consequences (we often refer to this as our dialogic work analysis and includes Demand-Control-Consequences-Resulting Demand). You do… Read more »
Shelly Hansen
Hi Robyn~ Thank you for comment! It has been a long time since I read through all the ins and outs of DCS. The article above was presented as a holistic approach to the CPC taking into consideration the applications, however inaccurate, of DCS. It has come up in my experience before that an interpreter, perhaps mis-informed, will reference DSC as the reason for a decision making process that is out of sync with CPC tenents. Rather than incorporate DCS into the CPC, I feel they should be separate. You may disagree with my perspective. I can give you an… Read more »
Danie Maffia

That’s just the point. DC-S as a decision making model relies on the values of the profession. Otherwise, how will it advance ethical practice? Otherwise, anything goes….

When I took the former NIC test that incorporated the levels I contribute my passing the interview portion of the test to my knowledge and application of DC-S.

Danie Maffia

Thank you Shelly for your response.

However that is just the point. DC-S as a decision making model relies on the values of the profession. Otherwise, how will it advance ethical practice? Otherwise, anything goes….

When I took the former NIC test that incorporated the levels I contribute my passing the interview portion of the test to my knowledge and application of DC-S.

Shelly Hansen

Hi Danie!
Thanks for comment ;o)
I think that is fabulous you are able to apply DCS to your decision making process. My sole point is it should not be incorporated into the RID CPC. We can all use various approaches in a variety of combinations to our decision making…these however are separate from a CPC which sets a standard of professional conduct for RID certified members. You might find it helpful to review other Codes of Conduct for further examples. All the best!!!

Danie Maffia
Shelly thank you again for your response. 🙂 I guess I don’t understand where it ever came up that DC-S should be incorporated into the CPC? I am not sure I have ever seen anyone mention that DC-S should be incorpated into the CPC so I am not sure where that comes from. Can you point to me where that idea has been mentioned before? I have reviewed several other codes of conduct in addition to other codes written for other signed language interpreters. I teach an ethics course in an interpreter training program and that is one of the… Read more »
Shelly Hansen
Hi Danie! The DCS was referenced on page 21 of the CPC Review Committee Report. Here is a link to that report: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B3DKvZMflFLdamlxM19uTHk3SDA/view See the section: “Do You Think the NAD RID CPC (say that 5 x fast ;o)!! is in need of revision?” Also, I have interacted with interpreters and DCS has been referenced as a type of defense or rationalization for ethical decisions…so I personally wanted to share my thoughts about the appropriateness of having DCS incorporated into the CPC. My analysis is that it does not belong in a CPC. Glad you liked the part about case… Read more »
Daniel Maffia
Hello Shelly: Thank you so much for attaching the link to the report. 🙂 I had read the committee part before, but because the mention of DC-S was not something that I saw as a theme I did not remember it was mentioned. When I read it I actually interpreted it differently than you. I did not see it as a suggestion of incorporating DC-S into the CPC as you state above in your response, but that it should be used in conjunction with the CPC in order to make decisions. Is there another section that specifically mentions “incorporating” DC-S… Read more »

As part of publication with StreetLeverage, we ask contributing authors to reply to comments regarding questions about their perspectives, opinions, etc. As you may note above, Shelly has responded to your comments.

Additionally, we are grateful that you are passionate about StreetLeverage maintaining a high level of academic rigor. We appreciate any feedback that allows us to improve our processes as we work to balance readability, personal perspective and a level of academic rigor.

We appreciate your comments as they add balance to the opinions and perspectives offered by StreetLeverage contributors.

Jean Miller, I am not referring to a ‘question about perspectives’. I am referring to a wrong portrayal, about spreading misinformation. Whether or not Ms. Hansen can defend in an academic manner the relationship of the CPC to decision-making models (whether they be DC-S or other models) is different than disseminating incorrect information. I would encourage readers to look at Cottone & Claus’s (2000) article which reviews decision making models from the field of counseling. Every model (they review 9 models) includes a portion of incorporating ethical standards, codes, and values as part of decision-making. This is what DC-S encourages… Read more »


I apologize for my misinterpreting the concerns you have regarding the posting and StreetLeverage’s work in editing and looking at the post for publication. It is certainly not our intention to publish incorrect information.

The error in citation is mine. Please accept my apology.

Again, thank you for your vigilance and feedback. I believe it can only help us to be better.



Jennie Stair

I think the CPC as it is stated now is far more better in clarity than this version. I also think that In Evaluating the interpreters that it is imperative to have a live panel evaluate potential interpreters applying to be an Interpreter for the Deaf. They used the live panel back in 1978 when I got my CSC. It consisted a board members-interpreters- Deaf evaluating the interpreter.

Shelly Hansen
Hi Jennie! Thanks for the comment! This is offered as an alternative that addresses some of the concerns in the recent RID CPC Review Committee and is in line with the format of many other CPCs (of course not all, but many.) As far as a live panel…I was certified (1992) after that system was replaced so never sat for a live panel. In a way, our daily work is a live panel. Community members always have the option to file a grievance…and show us tons of grace when we do our learning “on the job” and by giving us… Read more »
Hello again, On another note, I would interested in Ms. Hansen’s perspective on the difference between positive and negative obligation autonomy as defined by Beauchamp & Childress (2012). She seems only to be talking in her article about negative obligation autonomy… that is taking no action in hopes that the service users will take action themselves or make informed decisions. However, in the field of ethics, autonomy is also defined by positive obligation. That is, the taking of some kind of action so a person is able to be autonomous in their decision-making. Imagine a doctor laying out for a… Read more »
Shelly Hansen
Hi Robyn~ The act of providing an interpretation is, in and of itself, a pro-action. It affirms the value of communication. I picked out one section (#7) in the draft above that speaks to this “positive obligation”. “Interpreters are dedicated to effective communication for all parties…. interpreters can commit to fully participate in the role-space of interpreter to facilitate communication in order to support the parties in reaching their mutual goals of shared exchange.” Other terms in the document include “good faith effort” which to me equates to validation of the fruits of interpreting due to efforts invested: effective communication.… Read more »
Shelly Hansen
Hi Robyn~ Maybe someone else will speak to this…but the idea of autonomy is a positive. If I use the “how do I want to be treated” principle, the more genuine autonomy, which means I have the available information that I can know, and the freedom to make my own decisions and live with those consequences is empowering. I want to make my own good decisions and enjoy those results, and learn from my mistakes too. I love what Jerry Seinfeld said recently…”pain is alot of knowledge rushing in all at once” ;o) So I am not in the business… Read more »
Thanks. I am not fully following your argument in regards to positive obligation autonomy. I think you’re using the terms differently than is intended by Beauchamp and Childress (2012). They are not intended to convey something good or something undesirable but as in the ‘presence of’ (+) and the ‘absence of’ (-). Similar to how they are used in medicine with blood tests as an example (HIV positive means the presence of the virus). Positive obligation autonomy means the presence of action taken by the professional and negative obligation autonomy would mean the absence of such action. Providing an interpretation… Read more »
Shelly Hansen
Hi again! I am concerned about the perception that this CPC draft is proposing a “message transfer” model. As I haven’t read the materials you are referencing regarding positive and negative obligations perhaps we can set that aside and just address the primary concern you are expressing which is that the interpreter will, due to a commitment to participant autonomy, fail to fulfill another ethical duty to provide a complete, appropriate, client-match, context rich, fully accessible interpretation. If that is your impression, it was not my intention. As I re-read tenets 1 and 2 above, those concerns seem to be… Read more »
Shelly, I love the structure of this CPC. It much more specific because of its “holistic” format. Having illustrative behaviors only muddies up the works. I would much rather be tested off of this material than a series of stated tenets and behaviors to be memorized before a test. We interpreters should know that the spirit of the message is just as important as the form (or format) in which it is written. What is the likelihood that we will see RID adopt something like this? As far as the DCS, I was taught this schematic, ad infinitum, during my… Read more »
Shelly Hansen

Hi Kevin!
Thanks for comment :o)
I don’t know if/when RID would adopt something like this…Perhaps this can help contribute to that process…! I agree about DCS being an excellent tool.
All the best!

Hi! I think the CPC does need an overhaul; however, I am concerned with the verbosity and high-level register that this is written in. For recent grads, graduating from AA programs, and, bearing in mind that the profession was just upgraded to Bachelor level education status for sitting for the National Interpreter Certification, does this truly embody our profession? While I am supportive of professional discourse, I fear that this alienates most of our consumer base, and even our membership. Are these terms readily understood by most practitioners and the consumers of their services? Referencing Robyn Dean’s post above about… Read more »
Shelly Hansen
Hi Just a Terp ;o) Thanks for comments! Hmmm…as regards register and verbosity…what do you think of the ASL version of this post? I hope that as interpreters (educators, trainers, mentors, peers, students, interns etc…) and the D/HH/DB community we engage in discussion so that the content is understood and any questions can be explored and answered. There is always the fall back to contacting the RID Ethics Committee for clarification. Regarding DCS…I agree…it is important to educate interpreters on the appropriate application of any tool as well as support adherence to the national NAD-RID CPC. Thanks again for your… Read more »
Hello J.A.I., Thank you for your well presented explanation of our work. I agree with your description. The issue of why people don’t always get it (or apply it correctly) is in part due to the ‘one-off workshop’ mentality for professional development. It is unlikely that most workshops that you attend will result in great change unless you learn it over a period of time — with application, practice, support and revision. Fostering understanding and application of DC-S is arguably a paradigm shift in addition to advancing judgment skills; this takes considerable time. It is hard to convince people of… Read more »
Hi Shelly, Thank you for your thoughtful updated version of the CPC. In my opinion, the prior tenets seemed repetitive and cumbersome. Although I don’t know how quickly this will be modified or adopted by RID, I’m already concerned about the ‘enhanced NIC’ and the ongoing discussions for potential changes for a new exam. In light of thee obvious problems initially questioned by Dennis Cokely, plus the introduction of a new CPC, I believe that RID bears a responsibility to its members to extend or put a ‘hold’ on the time-limit after passing the written portion of the NIC test,… Read more »
Shelly Hansen

Hi Judy! Thanks for the comment! I am surprised by the announcement that RID is putting a moratorium on testing…and I agree that exam processes need to be fair to all test takers. I had no preconceptions on how an updated CPC would transition and combine with testing…and only am offering this up as a sample possibility. Thanks again for your thoughtful response!


I have always enjoyed your work and your videos. I would like to echo what Judy Lutz has said. It would be great to have a new CPC when a new version of the NIC performance & interview test premieres. (Assuming that is what RID is really ready to launch after the moratorium on the P&I test. Is there any evidence that RID will dovetail the implementation of this new CPC when the risk assessment is done in about a year?

Shelly Hansen

Hi Kevin~
Thanks for comment!! I don’t know…it makes sense to do it all in one swoop. Everyone one wants a fair exam and access to accurate prep materials. Hopefully the RID Ethics Committee will continue their work and provide an update. ;o) All the best!!!

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



(New York)