How do I request an ASL interpreter?
Direct Contract Customers: Submit interpreter requests on our website https://www.a2zinterpretingservices.com/request-an-interpreter.
State agencies and those that use the Master Contract can submit requests here https://fortress.wa.gov/dshs/odhhapps/Interpreters/Request.aspx.
Medical Providers wishing to use the HCA Contract can submit requests here https://fortress.wa.gov/dshs/odhhapps/Interpreters/HCARequest.aspx
All requests received outside business hours will be processed the next business day.
How far in advance should I request an interpreter?
ASL Interpreters are in high demand nation-wide. The demand outweighs the supply. We recommend submitting your interpreter requests as soon as you know you need an interpreter. Ideally, requests should be submitted at least 3 weeks in advance. We always strive to honor shorter notice requests based on availability. If you need an appointment soon, we can work with you to find the next available time slots with interpreter availability.
What if I have an urgent after hours request?
Our business hours are M-F 8a-5p. We monitor our phone and email infrequently outside business hours. The best way to reach us is by sending an email to email@example.com and we will respond to your message when we see it.
Why is it my responsibility to provide a sign language interpreter?
In 1990 the United States congress passed a federal law called the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).
President George Bush signed this bill into effect and it became the responsibility of a variety of businesses to make their services available to the general public. This is called making an accommodation. For Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing individuals a sign language interpreter is an appropriate accommodation.
There have been numerous lawsuits filed against hospitals, businesses, doctors, etc. for failing to comply with the ADA. Lawyers are eager to take on these cases because the cases are easily won. A lack of information could cause your business to have to pay a large settlement for failure to provide an appropriate accommodation to your Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing consumer.
Title III of the ADA requires hotels, restaurants, movies and theaters, auditoriums, doctors’ offices, lawyers’ offices, offices of other professionals, hospitals, nursing homes, drug stores, insurance agencies, retail stores, museums, banks, libraries, parks, private schools and colleges, amusement and recreation facilities, exercise spas, and day care centers to make their services accessible to individuals who have disabilities.
Learn more more about the law on the ADA’s website https://www.ada.gov/resources/effective-communication/
What is the ADA?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law to stop discrimination against people with disabilities. It applies to:
- Many private and public employers (Title I)
- State and local government agencies (Title II)
- Places of public accommodation (Title III)
- Transportation facilities (Titles II and III)
- Telephone companies (Title IV)
- U.S. Congress (Title V)
Learn more more about the law on the ADA’s website https://www.ada.gov/resources/effective-communication/
What kinds of "auxiliary aids and services (accommodations)" must be provided to people with hearing loss?
The Department of Justice lists the following examples of auxiliary aids and services:
For people who are deaf, have hearing loss, or are deaf-blind, this includes providing a qualified notetaker; a qualified sign language interpreter, oral interpreter, cued-speech interpreter, or tactile interpreter; real-time captioning; written materials; or a printed script of a stock speech (such as given on a museum or historic house tour). A “qualified” interpreter means someone who is able to interpret effectively, accurately, and impartially, both receptively (i.e., understanding what the person with the disability is saying) and expressively (i.e., having the skill needed to convey information back to that person) using any necessary specialized vocabulary.
Read more about the ADA requirements of auxiliary aids here https://www.ada.gov/resources/effective-communication/#auxiliary-aids-and-services
Who pays for the interpreter or other accommodations?
Businesses, agencies and other public facilities are required to provide accessibility for specified disabilities and for Deaf clients. This means they are being provided access to communication. Thus, the cost falls upon those who are providing the accommodations. The use of qualified sign language interpreters is a convenient, cost-effective way to provide such access. A deaf person may not be held responsible, directly or indirectly, for the costs of an auxiliary aid. For example, the cost of an interpreter for a doctor’s appointment may not be passed on to a deaf patient.
In some situations, the cost of providing an auxiliary aid or service (e.g., an interpreter) may exceed the charge to the deaf person for that very same service. A business is expected to treat the costs of providing auxiliary aids and services as part of the annual overhead costs of operating a business. Accordingly, so long as the provision of the auxiliary aid or service does not impose an undue burden on the business and does not fundamentally alter the business’s services, the business is obligated to pay for the auxiliary aid or service in this situation.
Is there any assistance available to help with interpreting costs?
To assist businesses with complying with the ADA, Section 44 of the IRS Code allows a tax credit for small businesses and Section 190 of the IRS Code allows a tax deduction for all businesses.
The tax credit is available to businesses that have total revenues of $1,000,000 or less in the previous tax year or 30 or fewer full-time employees. This credit can cover 50% of the eligible access expenditures in a year up to $10,250 (maximum credit of $5000). The tax credit can be used to offset the cost of undertaking barrier removal and alterations to improve accessibility; providing accessible formats such as Braille, large print and audio tape; making available a sign language interpreter or a reader for customers or employees, and for purchasing certain adaptive equipment.
The tax deduction is available to all businesses with a maximum deduction of $15,000 per year. The tax deduction can be claimed for expenses incurred in barrier removal and alterations.
Learn more about the tax credit and tax deduction provisions here https://archive.ada.gov/taxcred.htm
When is a deaf person entitled to an interpreter?
An interpreter should be provided for any setting open to the public when the person needing the interpreter, the Deaf individual, requests it.
Who Decides Which Aid or Service Is Needed?
When choosing an aid or service, title II entities are required to give primary consideration to the choice of aid or service requested by the person who has a communication disability. The state or local government must honor the person’s choice, unless it can demonstrate that another equally effective means of communication is available, or that the use of the means chosen would result in a fundamental alteration or in an undue burden (see limitations below). If the choice expressed by the person with a disability would result in an undue burden or a fundamental alteration, the public entity still has an obligation to provide an alternative aid or service that provides effective communication if one is available.
Title III entities are encouraged to consult with the person with a disability to discuss what aid or service is appropriate. The goal is to provide an aid or service that will be effective, given the nature of what is being communicated and the person’s method of communicating.
Covered entities may require reasonable advance notice from people requesting aids or services, based on the length of time needed to acquire the aid or service, but may not impose excessive advance notice requirements. “Walk-in” requests for aids and services must also be honored to the extent possible.
Who is a "qualified" interpreter?
A qualified interpreter is defined to mean “an interpreter who is able to interpret effectively, accurately, and impartially both receptively and expressively, using any necessary specialized vocabulary.”; 228 C.F.R. 35.104 (See also Fed. Reg. At 35701); 28 C.F.R. 36.104. (See also 56 Fed. Reg. At 35553.) The definition recognized that the interpreting skill needed for some types of communication may be higher than for other types of communication. For example, an interpreter in a doctor’s office must be able to interpret complex medical terminology. Similarly, a highly skilled interpreter may be needed for a court proceeding or a theater production.
The Department of Justice regulations to implement Title III provide a comprehensive list of auxiliary aids and services required by the ADA. Qualified interpreters are included in this list of auxiliary aids. The regulation defines “qualified interpreter” to mean “an interpreter who is able to interpret effectively, accurately, and impartially both receptively and expressively, using any necessary specialized vocabulary.” This definition focuses on the interpreter’s actual ability to make communication effective in a particular interpreting situation. The Deaf individual is the best person to determine if communication is effective for them.
Can asking family members or friends of the deaf person to interpret satisfy the obligation to provide effective communication?
Generally, no. Family members often do not have sufficient sign language skills to interpret accurately. Even if they are skilled in sign language, a family member or friend may not be “qualified” in certain situations, because of emotional or personal involvement or the deaf individual’s need for privacy and confidentiality. 56 Fed. Reg. at 35553.
Professional interpreters are highly skilled and nationally/state certified in sign language. They are trained in the interpreting process with focus on non-manual and specialized vocabulary. They are required to maintain their certification with continuous, mandatory education.. Certified interpreters are bound by a “Code of Ethics” for confidentiality, impartiality, and professionalism to ensure a true and accurate interpretation.
Problems with using a friend or family member could be one or more of the following: objectivity, skill level, confidentiality, liability.
According to the ADA, family members are only permitted to interpret for the individual in very limited circumstances. More info can be found here https://www.ada.gov/resources/effective-communication/#use-of-accompanying-adults-or-children-as-interpreters
I have a staff member who can sign fairly well. May I use this person?
No. The law requires the individual providing the interpreting service must be a qualified interpreter. There is a major difference between “signing” and “interpreting”. ASL has many idioms and idiosyncrasies, as all languages do. Along with manual signs, ASL relies heavily upon non-manual communication. Within the term of “Sign Language”, there are four major signing modes that range from true ASL (American Sign Language) to PSE (Contact Signing), to SEE II (Signing Exact English) and CUED Speech. The deaf community is extremely diverse. The interpreter must be skilled in each of these areas to be able to match the signing style of the deaf consumer for effective communication to take place. A qualified interpreter is able to impartially interpret spoken language into the equivalent of signed language. A “signer,” or an individual who has a low certification can seldom achieve this task. Several years of interactive training are required to achieve a level of proficiency to accurately interpret most situations.
What if providing an interpreter is an undue burden on our business?
Covered entities are required to provide aids and services unless doing so would result in an “undue burden,” which is defined as significant difficulty or expense. If a particular aid or service would result in an undue burden, the entity must provide another effective aid or service, if possible, that would not result in an undue burden. Determining what constitutes an undue burden will vary from entity to entity and sometimes from one year to the next. The impact of changing economic conditions on the resources available to an entity may also be taken into consideration in making this determination.
State and local governments: in determining whether a particular aid or service would result in undue financial and administrative burdens, a title II entity should take into consideration the cost of the particular aid or service in light of all resources available to fund the program, service, or activity and the effect on other expenses or operations. The decision that a particular aid or service would result in an undue burden must be made by a high level official, no lower than a Department head, and must include a written statement of the reasons for reaching that conclusion.
Businesses and nonprofits: in determining whether a particular aid or service would result in an undue burden, a title III entity should take into consideration the nature and cost of the aid or service relative to their size, overall financial resources, and overall expenses. In general, a business or nonprofit with greater resources is expected to do more to ensure effective communication than one with fewer resources. If the entity has a parent company, the administrative and financial relationship, as well as the size, resources, and expenses of the parent company, would also be considered.
In addition, covered entities are not required to provide any particular aid or service in those rare circumstances where it would fundamentally alter the nature of the goods or services they provide to the public. In the performing arts, for example, slowing down the action on stage in order to describe the action for patrons who are blind or have vision loss may fundamentally alter the nature of a play or dance performance.
Can I raise the deaf person's fees, or charge the deaf person for this service?
No, this is forbidden by the ADA. It’s the business, or organization’s responsibility to provide and pay for the service, and they cannot pass the cost back onto the deaf customer. However, you can raise ALL your customer’s fees to create some revenue for interpreting services. In addition, there are tax breaks and rebates available for small businesses that provide accommodations under the ADA. 28 C.F.R.35.130(f); 28 C.F.R. 36.301(b)(c). IRS Form 8826
What places of public accommodation must comply with Title III of the ADA?
(1) A. Places of public accommodation are facilities that are “operated by a private entity, whose operations affect commerce.” 28 C.F.R. 36.104. The law applies to more than five million private businesses and establishments in 12 different categories. For example, it covers hotels, restaurants, movies and theaters, auditoriums, doctors’ offices, lawyers’ offices, offices of other professionals, hospitals, nursing homes, drug stores, insurance agencies, retail stores, museums, banks, libraries, parks, private schools and colleges, amusement and recreation facilities, exercise spas, and day care centers.
(2) Public Accommodation – The following privately operated entities are considered public accommodations for purposes of this title, if the operations of such entities affect commerce.
- An inn, hotel, motel, or other similar place of lodging, except for an establishment located within a building that contains not more than five rooms for rent or hire and that is actually occupied by the proprietor of such establishment as the residence of such proprietor;
- A restaurant, bar, or other establishment serving food or drink;
- A motion picture house, theater, concert hall, stadium, or other place of exhibition or entertainment;
- An auditorium, convention center, or lecture hall or other place of public accommodation;
- A bakery, grocery store, clothing store, hard-ware store, shopping center, or other similar retail sales, establishment;
- A Laundromat, dry-cleaners, bank, barber shop, beauty shop, travel service, shoe repair service, funeral parlor, gas station, office of an accountant or lawyer, pharmacy, insurance office, professional office of a health care provider, hospital, or other similar service establishment;
- A terminal, depot, or other station used for public transportation;
- A museum, library, gallery, and other similar place of public display or collection.