Vermont Interpreter Referral Service

Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

Q. Who is responsible to pay the interpreter?

A. Almost all businesses of any size are required to be accessible to people with disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This includes paying for interpreting or CART/captioning services if the Deaf person needs those accommodations. This Federal statute states that you must provide effective communication, which in many cases does mean hiring and paying for interpreting services.

Q. How much do interpreters cost?

A. Interpreter billing policies vary and should be negotiated on an individual basis. Rates may vary depending on the nature and timing of the assignment and the level of experience and certification of the interpreter. Some common practices include a minimum fee, hourly rates, charges for mileage and travel time, cancellation policies and retainer fees.

Q. How much advance notice does VIRS need?

A. Interpreters and captioners are independent contractors who provide services for many different clients. Due to these demands on scheduling of their time, it is important to provide VIRS with as much advance notice as possible. Occasionally, services can be provided on short notice, but the chances of securing an interpreter decrease if the request is made with less than two weeks notice.

Q. What if I have a last minute request or an emergency during regular business hours?

A. Call and VIRS will do its best to secure an interpreter. We often know where interpreters are working and if it is an emergency we may be able to contact them.

Q. What if I have a last minute emergency at night or on the weekend?

A. You can check out the emergency list of certified interpreters on our Web site, listed by county throughout the state and contact the interpreters directly.

Q. Why do I need more than one interpreter?

A. Click here to learn about Team interpreting.

Q. Can I use a family member or friend who knows some sign language to interpret?

A. The ADA strongly discourages the use of family members or friends. Family members often do not possess sufficient sign language skills to effectively interpret. Even if they are skilled enough in sign language to communicate with the deaf person, family members and friends are very often too emotionally or personally involved to interpret “effectively, accurately, and impartially”. Finally, using family members and friends as interpreters can cause problems with maintaining confidentiality.

Q. How do I know what type of services or interpreter a deaf person needs?

A. The person, deaf or hard of hearing, is in the best position to know which auxiliary aid or service will achieve effective communication.

Q. What if I need to make a change in the time or cancel the request after securing the interpreter through VIRS?

A. You would contact the interpreter directly. VIRS will provide you with the name and phone number/email address of the interpreter when they confirm her/him with you.

Q. Does VIRS refer only nationally certified interpreters?

A. VIRS refers primarily to interpreters in private practice who are certified by the RID, Inc. and/or hold NAD level 4 or 5 certification. VIRS will refer to “pre-certified” interpreters who meet certain criteria established by VIRS with permission of the Deaf person.

Q. What is the role of the interpreter?

A. Click here to read about the role of the interpreter.

Q. I cannot remember the name of the interpreter I used before. Is there a list of certified interpreters with their pictures available?

A. Click here to see photos of Interpreters.

Q. What are the different types of certifications for interpreters?

A. Click here to read about the different types of certifications

Q. What is a Deaf interpreter?

A. A Certified Deaf Interpreter (CDI) is an individual who is deaf or hard of hearing and has been certified by the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf. A Certified Deaf Interpreter may be needed when the communication mode of a deaf consumer is so unique that it cannot be adequately assessed or accessed by interpreters who are hearing. Some such situations may involve individuals whom:

  • use idiosyncratic non-standard signs or gestures such as those commonly referred to as “home signs” which are unique to a family
  • use a foreign sign language
  • are deaf-blind or deaf with limited vision
  • use signs particular to a given region, ethnic or age group
  • have minimal or limited language skills
  • have characteristics reflective of Deaf Culture and not familiar to hearing interpreters
  • Legal or mental health situations may also require a Deaf interpreter whose first language fluency allows for more accurate interpretation

Q. Where can I find a list of workshops offered in New England for new interpreters?

A. Northeastern University maintains a list of workshops offered throughout New England.

Q. Who offers American Sign Language Classes in Vermont?

A. The University of Vermont, St. Michael's College, Community Colleges of Vermont, the Austine School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Burlington Parks and Recreation Department, or you may contact Anne Potter at email:

Q. Is lip-reading (currently the term is speech reading) an effective form of communicating with deaf and hard of hearing individuals?

A. Not often. Some deaf and hard of hearing individuals do rely on speech reading for communication. For these individuals, an oral interpreter may be the best means of ensuring effective communication. Very few deaf people rely on speech reading alone for exchanges of important information. Forty to sixty percent of English sounds look alike when spoken. Thirty percent of what is said is actually discernable or visible on the lips, and the other seventy percent is guesswork. This sets up the perfect situation for miscommunication and misunderstanding.

Q. What is American Sign Language (ASL)?

A. ASL is the primary language used by many in the Deaf community and is a language with its own grammar, syntax and structure, which is different from English. English may in fact be a second language for many ASL users. Interpreters allow hearing and deaf people to communicate with one another directly.

Q. What is Deaf Culture?

A. Deaf culture is based on the vibrant heritage and traditions of the Deaf community. American Sign Language (ASL) is a recognized language and the language shared by most Deaf people.

The community is unified based on common experiences of being Deaf in a hearing society, such as: limited accessibility to services, being an oppressed group, isolation and communication barriers.

Deaf culture includes ASL literature and art, social, political, business and sports organizations, and rules and traditions. Subgroups within the Deaf community are based on communication modes used “users of ASL”, Oral Deaf, Signed English users, and other methods.