Deaf Culture - Dos and Donts


  • Ask patient directly the best way to interact
  • Have paper and pencil
  • Write in short simple sentences; patients (or a family member’s) grammar may not be perfectly correct.
  • Convey your willingness to communicate
  • Watch facial expressions, eye gaze, etc.
  • Repeat if necessary
  • Allow for more time
  • Look directly at the person, keeping your hands and face toward the Deaf person you are speaking with, even when they are looking at an interpreter.
  • Do include the Deaf person in the conversation.
  • Be friendly; they merit the same respect as anyone else.


  • Don’t assume communication is occurring correctly (nodding does not always mean I understand)
  • Don’t underestimate a person’s intelligence.
  • Don’t pretend to understand if you don’t.
  • Don’t exaggerate your mouth movements or yell.
  • Don’t have objects in your mouth, or cover your mouth while speaking (This applies to Deaf children and adults).
  • If you must discuss something you don’t want interpreted, and then leave the room. Or wait until the Deaf person leaves.
  • Don’t repeat the same word if there is difficulty understanding it. Use a synonym.
  • Don’t speak to a Deaf person with your back to a light, window or mirror .
  • Do not refer to them in third person as if he/she was not present.

To get a Deaf Person’s Attention

Gentle tap the shoulder or arm is best. If entering a room, you can flip the light switch off/on once or twice before entering so they know you are coming in.

Communicating with Speech Readers

  • Wait until the person can see you before speaking.
  • Never speak directly into the person’s ear.
  • Position yourself 3-6 feet from the person.
  • Speak at your normal rate.
  • Use appropriate gestures and facial expressions.
  • Do not exaggerate your words
  • Clue the person about the topic and as the subject of the conversation changes.
  • Choose a quiet place , reducing as much background noise as possible.

General Questions

What is the Role of an Interpreter?

The Interpreter must faithfully transmit the spirit and content of the speakers. Deaf and Hearing persons using Interpreter services have the right to control the communication interaction and make their own decisions. ASL Services provides nationally certified specialists to interpret for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.
An interpreter is a participant in providing an accessible environment for the patient/client(s). Their role is to facilitate communication between the company and their client(s).
Note: With Deaf patients, there may be times when an intermediary interpreter who is also Deaf may be brought in as part of the interpreting team.

Can anyone who knows sign language be an Interpreter?

No, the biggest misconception by the general public is that anyone who has taken classes in ASL or signed English (or knows the manual alphabet) is qualified to be an Interpreter. A Signer is a person who may be able to communicate conversationally with Deaf persons, but does not possess the skills and expertise to accurately interpret or function as an Interpreter. To become an Interpreter, it is necessary not only to be bilingual and bicultural, but to have the ability to mediate meanings across languages and cultures, both simultaneously and consecutively. This takes years of training and practice. Qualified Interpreters need to have some level of State qualification or certification.

How much prior notice should be given to obtain interpreting services?

Although at least one week’s notice is preferable, ASL Services Inc. can often accommodate short-notice and emergency services. Our emergency pager number is: (407-931-8050) or 1-888 SIGN-ASL and press 1 to notify us of your emergency needs.

Is Sign Language a Foreign Language?

Subject: Dr. Michael Tucclei’s Response to the December 5, 2002 Orlando Sentinal Letters to the Editor Article on ASL To: Orlando Sentential Editor Dear Editor: I disagree respectfully with your December 5 comment that sign language in schools is fine but not as a foreign language substitute. Let me address some of your objections. You wrote “The mushrooming popularity of sign language should give lawmakers pause. Those students aren’t taking the course because many more employers are begging for sign-language skills, or because the Deaf population in this nation has burgeoned. Many students just think that ASL is easier than a foreign language.” American Sign Language is based on French Sign Language brought over in the early 1800s by a Deaf French man Clerc. He was instrumental in establishing the first school for the Deaf. As psychologists as Mele Koneya and Alton Barbour has documented, only 7% of communication is in words. American Sign Language is a visual/gestural language emphasizing the 93% of communication which are cited by PhD linguistic candidates in Colorado (Alysse Rasmussen) and Stanford as being one of the world’s most difficult language to become fluent in … on the same level as Chinese. Marilyn von Savant, in her column “Ask Marilyn” also advised taking sign language. The Smithsonian Institution had an article “ASL is Not Mouth Stuff .. It is Brain Stuff”. You may be surprised that due to the passage of the ADA, many employers are cognizant of the fact that they are required to provide reasonable accommodations and communication is specifically mandated as one area to provide accommodations. ASL is the only foreign language that can be used for ADA compliance … hence employees who are fluent in ASL are indeed an asset to employers. You also stated “…but American Sign Language is not a foreign language…”. What about all the various American Indian languages? They are certainly more “American” than ASL but I don’t see any objections to them being offered as a foreign language in various universities. Finally, you stated “…students don’t come away from the class with an appreciation of another country and its literature, or of this nation’s ethnic diversity. Moreover, the demand for their signing skills isn’t as great in the marketplace as the demand for bilingual workers.” Believe me, when my students at the University of Florida leave my classes after analyzing Deaf Culture, Deaf Literature and viewing productions such as “Children of a Lesser God” and “Sound and Fury”, they are aghast at the oppression of this “ethnic diversity.” I will be happy to send you over a HUNDRED pages of my students leaving my classes commenting their intense appreciation of the culture of ASL and of the diversity of Deaf people. Hearing people who are fluent in ASL are indeed bilingual workers. Employers find that they are priceless as it sure beats having to contact a certified ASL interpreter and paying a $35 to $50 per hour fee. Christopher Columbus met incredible resistance in his “thinking outside of the box”. In fact, a committee, after four years of deliberation, came to the conclusion that he was crazy. History shows that Spain realized a 50,000% annual return of investment. Job Accommodation Network and DOJ analysis show that for every dollar employers invest in accessiblity, they receive 2,800% return of investment. As Dr. Bernie Hale from Clearwater stated that Deaf people comprise of the ‘third largest nation on earth’, a knowledge of ASL as a foreign language is indeed an asset to high school and college students. Dr. Michael Tuccelli (Deaf) Lecturer, University of Florida American Sign Language “The World’s Most Exciting Foreign Language”

How to Work with an Interpreter

Guidelines and Tips

  • Speak Directly to the person.
  • Don’t ask the interpreter to omit anything.
  • Do recognize that all information discussed is confidential
  • Don’t ask the interpreter to interject personal opinions.
  • Provide good lighting, even if auxiliary lighting is necessary.
  • Be aware that interpreting is physically and mentally fatiguing to both the interpreter and the client.
  • Check for breaks as needed.

Information Handout (English) for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Clients

Assistance for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Persons Using a Sign Language Interpreter Click Here to Download PDF

Information Handout (English) for Hearing Clients

Assistance For Hearing Communities Using an Interpreter Click Here to Download PDF

Questions About Sign Language Interpreters for Conferences

What is a sign language interpreter?

Interpreters [are those who] enable the cross-cultural communication necessary in today’s society by converting one language into another. However, these language specialists do more than simply translate words, they relay concepts and ideas between languages. They must thoroughly understand the subject matter in which they work in order to accurately convert information from one language into another. In addition, they must be sensitive to the cultures associated with their languages of expertise. Sign language interpreters facilitate communication between people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing and people who can hear. Sign language interpreters must be fluent in English and in American Sign Language (ASL), which combines signing, finger spelling, and specific body language. ASL has its own grammatical rules, sentence structure, idioms, historical contexts, and cultural nuances. Sign language interpreting, like foreign language interpreting, involves more than simply replacing a word of spoken English with a sign representing that word.
Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2008-09 Edition. http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos175.htm

Why do I need sign language interpreters for my conference?

Some conferences provide sign language interpreters once a Deaf/Hard of Hearing individual has registered; whereas other companies provide interpreters for public access, awareness and compliance. The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) was established to ensure inclusion and access to services for people with disabilities, including Deaf and Hard of Hearing people. As a public or private entity with educational, professional or trading purposes, you might be required to provide auxiliary aids and services. Auxiliary aids and services include qualified interpreters.

Why should I choose ASL Services?

American Sign Language Services, Inc. is one of the largest sign language interpreting agencies in the southeast United States with almost 20 years of experience as a company. ASL Services works at a high level of professionalism, holding a 2 million – 4 million dollar liability insurance policy. The agency works with the specific theme of your conference (i.e. technical, medical, educational) as well as your audience to ensure the best match among its top notch interpreters. You will also have a Conference Coordinator to work with you from the beginning at no additional cost (excluding on-site coordination). ASL Services covers emergencies 24/7 for last minute requests in Central Florida.

For which conferences has ASL Services provided sign language interpreters?

These are just some of the hundreds of companies and organizations for which ASL Services has coordinated and provided sign language interpreters: FORTUNE 500 COMPANIES
  • Cisco Systems
  • IBM
  • Macy’s
  • Microsoft
  • Sprint Nextel
  • Walgreen
  • Wells Fargo BUSINESS Alticor
  • Close to my Heart
  • FreeLife International
  • Frito Lay
  • International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions
  • National Association of Home Builders
  • Nutronix International + Automatic Builder
  • Stampin’ Up
  • Applix
  • Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development
  • Association of Collegiate Business Schools & Programs
  • ATIA
  • Autodesk
  • FETC
  • FLUG
  • International Center for Leadership in Education
  • Lorman Education
  • National Association of College & University Business Officers
  • National Association of Federal Education Program Administrators
  • National Council of University Research Administrators
  • Noel Levitz
  • Optionetics
  • T-Mobile
  • Cygnus Expositions
  • Miles Media Production
  • Milligan Events
  • National Contract Services
  • Premier Show Group
  • Reed Exhibitions
  • ASMC
  • Department of Justice
  • EEOC
  • Fair Housing Continuum
  • FDOT
  • >MEPS
  • US Department of Defense
  • US Office of Personnel Management
  • Veterans of Foreign Wars
  • ADA Working Group
  • American Society of Health-System Pharmacists
  • Assistance Dogs International
  • Autism Society of America
  • Children’s Miracle Network
  • Foundation Fighting Blindness
  • Governor’s Commission on Disability
  • Health Occupations Students of America
  • American Camp Association
  • Deaf Seniors of America
  • Delta Zeta Sorority
  • Florida Recreation and Park Association
  • Library for Deaf Action
  • National Council of La Raza

Does ASL Services provide trilingual (Spanish) interpreters?

Yes. ASL Services is a leader in providing trilingual interpreting services. You will need a trilingual interpreter in the following scenarios:
  • The spoken language of your conference is English and you have a Deaf/Hard of Hearing attendee whose first and second languages are ASL and Spanish.
  • The spoken language of your conference is Spanish and you have a Deaf/Hard of Hearing attendee.
  • You have a presenter who uses ASL and your audience speaks Spanish.
ASL Services has highly qualified trilingual interpreters to cover your event.

Does ASL Services only offer sign language interpreters for local conferences?

No. ASL Services coordinates sign language interpreters for conferences nationwide. ASL Services offers the same quality services as for local conferences in both the coordination process and the interpreting itself. At least one month’s advance booking is required for conferences outside of Central Florida.

Who are the sign language interpreters covering my conference?

Working over 100 conferences per year, ASL Services’ interpreters are current in both skills and topics. ASL Services only assigns well qualified interpreters to conferences. You can rest assured that the interpreters covering your event are highly skilled and follow the NAD-RID Code of Professional Conduct. This guarantees you not only quality, but also confidentiality.

Which conference activities should be interpreted?

All conference events that have Deaf participants should be fully accessible. At times this means being interpreted. Conference activities that should be accessible include and are not limited to:
  • Registration
  • Workshops
  • Opening & Closing Sessions
  • Seminars
  • Major Presentations
  • Award Presentations
  • Plenary Sessions
  • General Programs
  • Banquets / Receptions / Luncheons
  • Etc…

Where should the sign language interpreter be placed?

Sign language interpreters should be placed in a well lit area in the line of sight between the Deaf/Hard of Hearing attendees and the presenters. All conferences and meetings have different sized rooms and vary in the number of attendees. ASL Services’ professional interpreters, along with your Deaf/Hard of Hearing attendees, can assist you with specific placement on-site so that your attendees have full access to the information.

How many sign language interpreters do I need?

Usually you will need at least one team of 2 interpreters per interpreted session. The number of teams will depend on, among other things:
  • The number of Deaf attendees
  • The communication preferences
  • Needs of the participants
  • The conference program or agenda
Please contact the ASL Services’ Conference Coordinator to assist you in determining how many teams are needed for your conference.

Why is a team of sign language interpreters needed?

Length and complexity are two of the major factors influencing the use of teams for conferences. The use of a team will promote the accuracy of the interpretation as well as preserve the mental and physical well-being of the interpreters. A team of interpreters is typically two interpreters where one takes a primary role of signing the information to the client while the other takes a supporting role, “feeding” specific or technical information to the primary interpreter. The interpreters will rotate roles approximately every 15-20 minutes. ASL Services uses team interpreting for stage assignments, conferences, meetings and presentations lasting over an hour.

Who pays for the sign language interpreters?

Typically the conference organization provides the services. Deaf attendees are not responsible for “bringing their own” interpreter or paying for the services needed. Accessible communication for Deaf attendees is different than requests from clients who may want or need interpreters of other foreign languages. Talk to your legal advisor or call the ADA Hotline at 800-514-0301 to inquire about your responsibility to provide accommodation and to see if you qualify for tax credits.

How does ASL Services bill for interpreting services?

As one of the largest sign language interpreter providers in Florida, ASL Services is able to offer highly qualified interpreters at an excellent cost.
  • ASL Services is also one of the only agencies in Florida that accepts VISA and MasterCard and is able to serve corporate accounts.
  • Billing is from start time to end time
  • There is a 2 hour minimum per interpreter per job or session
  • Billing is done in half-hour increments
Contact the Conference Coordinator immediately for details.

How do I schedule interpreting services for my conference?

  1. Fill out our contact form and be sure to include:
    • Name of your Company/Organization
    • Location of the conference
    • Dates of the conference
    • Start times and end times for each day of the conference
    • Number of Deaf attendees
    • Communication preferences and needs of the participants
  2. You will receive by fax or email an agreement with the details, including number of interpreters and cost per hour.
  3. Sign and return the agreement by the given deadline to reserve the services.

Sign Language Classes

Who can benefit?

Excellent for community, family members, friends, and coworkers that wish to communicate comfortably with members of the Deaf Community. These skills are also very beneficial for students who have or are currently attending a college program for additional support.

How are classes set up?

Classes are set up on a student demand basis. In order to accommodate your specialized scheduling needs, we maintain a list of interested parties with preferred times of day and skill level. We then establish classes around their defined needs.

What is different about ASL Services, Inc. classes?

First,you are assured of excellent instructors, as the classes are all taught by Deaf instructors using an immersion method that is fun and enjoyable in a stress-free environment. The array of instructors include members of the ASLTA (American Sign language Teachers’ Association), RID (National Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf) Certified, and Deaf-Blind interpreters all with years of experience in teaching and interpreter training. They are all recognized leaders in the Deaf Community. Classes meet once a week and are purposefully small (max 13) for better interaction opportunities. It also allows students to have the opportunity for individual attention and support. You can call our toll free number 1-800-SIGN-ASL to find out more about additional unique features that our classes provide.

Are there opportunities for advanced growth?

Absolutely! Our Sign Language classes move through levels 1-4. There are opportunities to move into interpreting mentorships, internships and more.

What materials are used in Class?

Our main text is “Signing Naturally,” published by Dawn Press. However, ASL Services Inc. has a comprehensive media room with a vast array of videotapes, workbooks, and related materials to promote training and development. Additionally, tutoring and evaluations are available to assist each student to maximize his or her potential.


What does ASL Services Internship offer professionally?

Our internship focus in not solely on interpreter skill in sign and voice, although we work with those skills, we focus highly on:
  • Communication skill between partners, agency and mentors
  • Business profession skills
  • Deaf Heart

Do you help with Housing?

We offer the use of our company condo at a nominal price per month. The condo is a shared dwelling. An intern my share a room with another intern or a visiting working interpreter of the agency. But it will always be same gender in the same room. There is a second room that may be utilized by other individuals and those may or may not be of the same gender.

Is this a paid internship?

Depending on Candidates skill level it may be a partially paid internship depending on candidates school requirements, it will be based on assignment need. Most of the internship will be unpaid observation and teaming

Do you help with Transportation

It is expected each person to provide for their own transportation. We do not recommend the Central Florida Bus system as it is not a time dependable form of transportation. If you are looking to rent a vehicle while you are here, we do aid in finding a low price for you. But it is up to the individual to book and pay for the rental car.

How long is your internship each semester?

There is no predetermined length of time. As each School has its own intern length requirements we work with chosen candidates to accommodate the schools time frame for them. We recommend no less than 4 weeks and no more than then length of that school semester.

How many interpreting hours do you provide? (Hands up, mentorship etc.)

There is no predetermined number of hours. Hours are based on the following factors:
  • Number of hours required by School
  • Each weeks assignment allocation
  • Number of interns accepted to program to disperse hours to
  • Schools guidelines for what is acceptable and recordable time