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Why do I need an Interpreter?

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Why do I need an Interpreter?


The general misconception that hearing non-signers have about Deaf Sign Language users is that they can either read lips or read written English.  This is not always the case and it has to be understood that British Sign Language is a different language to English. 

Once this is understood there is then a temptation to use family members, friends or work colleagues to assist with communication.  This decision is made through either lack of understanding about the issues of using an interpreter or lack of funds to pay for a professional interpreter.

There are legal requirements upon organisations and service providers to use appropriately trained and registered interpreters which come from the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA).  This requires all employers and service providers to make reasonable adjustments.  This for Deaf sign language users means provision of Sign Language Interpreter/s. 

When booking interpreters it is always important to check their qualifications and registration status.  Whilst it is recognised by most that spoken language interpreters need to be fluent in all languages they are interpreting between, this bizarrely is not deemed necessary by many for Sign Language interpreters.  However it is certainly most important for the Sign Language Interpreter to be fluent in English AND British Sign Language and the only way that a booker can ensure the interpreter they are engaging to provide an interpreting service is competent is to make sure they are registered with the IRP/CACDP.  This is the Independent Registration Panel which Sign Language Interpreters (SLI's) are required to register with. 

The IRP/CACDP have 3 registration categories:

  • Member of the Register of Sign Language Interpreters (MRSLI)
  • Trainee Interpreter (TI)
  • Junior Trainee Interpreter (JTI)


For each of the categories there is a strict criteria to ensure minimum standards from all of the interpreters registered with them.  As well as minimum qualification and training standards there is also a requirement for all interpreters to have Professional Indemnity Insurance (PII) and an up to date Enhanced CRB check for bookers to view if needed before the interpreter is booked/used.

When interpreters register with the IRP they are issued with a photo ID card which they should carry with them at all times when working.  If you are ever unsure of a persons registration status you can ask to see their ID card as this will clearly state on it what their registration is.

The IRP also have a complaints procedure that can be utilised if you are ever unhappy or unsatisfied with a service provided by an IRP registered interpreter.  As well as the complaints procedure they also have a Code of Conduct that all interpreters are expected to adhere to.

There is also the professional body of Sign Language Interpreters (SLI's) the Association of Sign Language Interpreters (ASLI) which is a membership association.  Professional interpreters may well belong to ASLI as well as registering with the IRP. 

To obtain this membership the interpreter must have undertaken and passed the specified training for their membership category as well as obtaining the required BSL language qualifications.  Once an interpreter has achieved Full membership (MASLI) they must maintain their membership by submitting Continuous Professional Development evidence (CPD) yearly.