Taking a Class that Includes an ASL Interpreter

This information is for students that are in a remote class, via Zoom, that will have at least one Deaf student that uses American Sign Language.  This is intended to inform you of what to expect, how to communicate with your fellow Deaf student, and how the Zoom class will look as you have Sign Language Interpreters that will also be attending your class.

You will most likely have two interpreters in your classroom.  They will take turns interpreting, usually alternating every 20 – 30 minutes, depending on the content of the course and how much class participation there is.  This transition, because of the way Zoom is designed, will sometimes force the interpreters to verbally inform one another that they are starting their turn as the interpreter. They will wait for the least intrusive time to get one another’s attention.  This might feel odd at first as they say, ‘OK “interpreters name”, I’ve got it’.  It does not take long for everyone to start ignoring the transition. 

There will also be times that one interpreter will be interpreting for the Deaf person.  The ‘inactive’ interpreter will suddenly start interrupting the ‘active’ interpreter when it does not seem to be their turn.  This is one of the imperative reasons for having two interpreters in the room.  If the interpreter that is interpreting is having some sort of disconnect with the message, the other interpreter is expected to be paying attention and step in.  This is necessary to ensure that what you hear is a correct interpretation of what the Deaf student is saying.  No man is an island, and we, as interpreters, appreciate our team stepping in when we need assistance rendering the message accurately.

The Deaf/Hard of Hearing student might voice for themselves.  Since the Sign Language Interpreter is not in a position to decide when and if someone should introduce themselves, the Deaf student will make that determination.

Address the Deaf student as you would address a hearing student.  Please do not ask the interpreter to ‘ask’ or ‘tell’ the Deaf student anything.  When you address the student, say their name, and pause.  This allows the interpreter to make sure you have the attention of the Deaf person.  Then proceed with your conversation.  The interpreter will automatically be there to interpret what you say into American Sign Language and will interpret what they say into English. It is unethical for us to monitor or modify conversations.  Do not feel you need to change what you say because we are there.  We will render all conversations faithfully.

Be aware of and patient with factors that sometimes make zoom difficult.  Internet connectivity is often an issue, forcing some students to log out and then back in.  Coming in and out of the meeting moves the location of the all the participants.  This might not bother you personally.  However, when this happens, the Deaf student, who was watching the interpreter, now must relocate them. 

A Deaf student might pin their interpreter so they can see the signing easier and more clearly.  However, if a professor shares a power point or allows another student to share something from their device, the Deaf students pin view is replaced by the view of the person controlling the class at that moment.  The student must relocate the interpreter again.  When the power point or screen sharing is taken down or stopped, the student must once again relocate the interpreter.  The time they spend locating the interpreter and re-pinning them is all lost communication.  They literally did not have equal access to the same information their hearing peers had, as they do not ‘hear’ the conversation unless they ‘see’ the interpreter.

If you have break-out rooms, the interpreters will be in the same group as the Deaf student.  They will not participate in the dialog or feedback; they will only interpret the conversations taking place.

This entire remote learning is a constantly evolving process.  PLEASE LET US KNOW what we can do to improve our role as interpreters in your class(es).  We are more than happy to listen to feedback.  We want to team with professors and students in a way that makes the experience enjoyable and beneficial for all.

Feel free to contact the Office of Disability Services with any thoughts, questions or feedback.  ODS@wichita.edu