Working with Sign Language Interpreters

Communicating with a deaf or hard of hearing student through a sign language interpreter can be a bit confusing at first, but here are some simple tips that will make it easier.

  • The interpreter’s role includes facilitating communication between the instructor and the students.  Please do not involve interpreters in activities other than interpreting.

  • The student will primarily be watching the interpreter while you are talking." The lack of eye contact can be uncomfortable for some, but the student needs to watch the interpreter to "hear" you.

  • There may be at least two interpreters assigned depending on the class.  The team will be working to facilitate communication.

  • The interpreter will speak in first-person, so when the interpreter says "I have a question," it means the student has a question, not the interpreter.

  • Speak directly to the student. The interpreter will generally be in front of the classroom allowing for the best auditory and visual access to the class material.

  • Be aware that good lighting is crucial at all times.

  • Please keep talking with your back to the students to a minimum (e.g., writing on the whiteboards).  This tends to muffle auditory access to the information for all participants/students.

  • When distributing handouts, please share with the interpreter(s).

  • Speak at a normal speed and tone.  There is no need to exaggerate words or speak louder. However, when reading, the tendency is to talk faster, so please slow down.

  • Any class assignments, class meetings, or study groups outside of ongoing class requires deaf and hard of hearing students to submit an interpreter request. SSD requires 72-hour notice in order to procure interpreters.  Please keep this in mind when assignment class activities, etc.

  • Any videos watched in class should be closed captioned and accessible for deaf or hard of hearing students.

If you have any questions about using an interpreter, please ask the student or interpreter. You may also call Dianna Clayton at the SSD Office (559) 278-2811 or email at