RID supports the State regulation of interpreters to ensure that minimum competency in services are delivered to the diverse d/Deaf, DeafBlind, DeafDisabled, hard of hearing, and hearing communities we serve.

RID was established in 1964 and incorporated in 1972 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose goal was to promote growth of the interpreting profession, advance the skills of individual interpreters, as well as advance the profession of interpretation of American Sign Language and English. In order to promote excellence in sign language interpreting, all interpreters should demonstrate the skills, knowledges, and abilities to interpret effectively in general settings by attaining appropriate certification and credentials[1]. The state regulation of sign language interpreting is one such mechanism through which this goal can be realized.

The need for state regulation of sign language interpreters began in the early 1970s. By 1990, with the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), regulation became imperative. The ADA was a landmark legislation that transformed the face of professional interpreting and caused the demand for interpreting services to soar to unprecedented heights. In recognition of state’s rights the ADA loosely defines a “qualified interpreter” as one, “…who is able to interpret effectively, accurately and impartially both receptively and expressively, using any necessary specialized vocabulary.”[2] This definition was meant to be defined at the State level, however, in the decades since the enactment of the ADA, there has been little development at the State level to clarify the terminology of “qualified interpreter” for specific consumer markets.

Unfortunately, this continues to cause a great deal of confusion and frustration among consumers, service providers, and professional interpreters. While the definition empowers D/deaf, DeafBlind, DeafDisabled, hard of hearing, and hearing consumers to require “effective communication” it provides no clarity to hiring entities, who are mandated by the ADA to provide interpreter services, in determining who is “qualified” before services are rendered. This is a critical point; without the tools or mechanisms to identify who has attained some level of competency, hiring entities are ill-prepared to satisfy the mandates of the ADA in locating and providing “qualified” interpreter services. State regulation of sign language interpreters better protects all parties in an interpreted interaction.

Consumer protection, as well as professional accountability and integrity, are at the core of RID’s Ethical Practices System and are reinforced by the NAD-RID Code of Professional Conduct. Too often consumers of ASL interpreting services experience unqualified[3] individuals attempting to render services.

States must implement regulations that prevent unqualified and unscrupulous individuals from providing interpreting services. Regulation can manifest in numerous ways including, but not limited to, oversight by state Offices of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing[4], state licensing agencies[5], or by instituting professional trade protections[6]. While RID has oversight of its membership through its grievance system- the Ethical Practices System, as well as the NAD-RID Code of Professional Conduct- to hold RID members accountable in situations where an ethical violation occurs and a grievance is made, if the unqualified individual is not a member of RID and/or is rendering those services in a state without regulation of the interpreting profession, the consumers (inclusive of hearing parties) suffer and are left with zero recourse. The unqualified or unethical interpreter is free from reprisal and is able to continue accepting interpreting assignments, further perpetuating harm to the communities we serve.

As states across the country continue to consider the need for regulation of the profession of sign language interpreters in collaboration with the D/deaf, DeafBlind, and hard of hearing communities, as well as, professional ASL interpreters, consideration for the needs of the community is essential. A “one size fits all” approach to regulation is not effective. It is imperative to consult with members of the ASL using community and professional interpreters to ensure any proposed regulation is successful with its implementation. Nearly every state across the country faced with the issue of regulating the interpreting profession and practice must consider the impact these decisions can have on the quality of service all consumers receive, as well as the state of the interpreting profession. RID supports the regulation of interpreters to ensure effective services delivered to the diverse d/Deaf, DeafBlind, DeafDisabled, hard of hearing, and hearing consumers, reduction of harm caused to these communities by bad actors, and ultimately, for the protection and welfare of the communities we serve.

Footnotes:

[1] RID, as the nationally recognized issuer of ASL interpreter and transliterator certifications, recognizes other certification systems exist provided those systems are legally defensible, psychometrically valid and reliable.

[2] “Ada Requirements: Effective Communication.” ADA.gov, 28 Mar. 2023, https://www.ada.gov/resources/effective-communication/

[3] An “unqualified individual” can be defined by, but is not limited to, a person attempting to but failing to render ASL interpreting services; their skill set does not match the demands of the specific job setting, or one whose consumer deems them to not be a fit or appropriate for the assignment.

[4] Example: Arizona Commission of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing- https://www.acdhh.org/interpreters/licensure-applications/

[5] Example: State of Maine- https://www.maine.gov/pfr/professionallicensing/professions/american-sign-language-interpreters

[6] Example: State of Colorado- https://leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb19-1069, https://www.sos.state.co.us/CCR/GenerateRulePdf.do?ruleVersionId=2288