What is the difference between Deaf and Hearing Impaired?

Technically and medically, in the disability category, the people with a wide range of hearing loss caused or affected for various reasons is labeled with Hearing Impairment. However, it lacks the description of the cultural meaning of the community and language.

Culturally, Deaf / Hard of Hearing people view Hearing Impairment as negative because they feel that the term focuses on what they cannot do. Because it makes them feel that they need to be fixed, trained, and be assimilated into the Hearing World, they constantly feel that the Hearing World does not accept and see what advanced abilities and skills they have.

Why can’t we (Deaf and Hearing) write on paper back and forth for communication? Isn’t that enough?

Writing back and forth is considered a last resort when trying to reduce the barrier between the two languages (spoken English and American Sign Language). However, keep in mind that American Sign Language has its own syntax, grammar, and meaning, which is very different from English. Too often, Hearing people think that American Sign Language has the same structures and words as English. Therefore, English is considered a second language to the Deaf community, and it can be confusing or lead to some misunderstanding. Deaf people struggle to express themselves naturally through writing English because American Sign Language is not an audible, spoken language.

But some Deaf people can lip-read and speak!

On average, lip-reading can pick up approximately 30% of the conversation in a one-on-one setting. The remaining 70% of the conversation is often guessed. Unfortunately, that often leads to misunderstanding. What is more, it takes extra effort for a Deaf person to think in terms of spoken English, the meanings, and fill in the blanks. As a result, the conversation can be “choppy” and ineffective, or unnatural. It also takes extra effort for a Deaf person to find the correct words, proper pronunciation, and proper English grammar before he/she speaks. It can be exhausting for him/her. The whole thinking process is very different than that of a hearing person.

Every Deaf individual is different. Some have stronger lip-reading skills than others, some can speak more than others. Some can hear high frequency sounds, while others can hear only low frequency sounds. It is a wide variety because of their upbringing, education, and life experiences. It is not “One Size Fits All”, it is very subjective. That is why using a professional interpreter will reduce issues and make the communication more accurate and effective.

This Deaf client brought a hearing family member. Why can’t I use that person to translate for us?

It is very common for a hearing family member to go with the Deaf client. Often times, family members do not have sign language skills to interpret specific terminology, such as medical. That will lead to errors and put the Deaf client at risk of harm. It is not recommended at all, and is inappropriate because of safety, privacy, and emotional concerns. Professional interpreters operate with a strict code of ethics, and are trained in each field.

I have one staff member that knows sign language, why can’t I use that person?

There are two differences between sign language users and sign language interpreters. One is able to communicate conversationally, and the other is trained to translate professionally properly and with a code of ethics. The interpreter is trained and has certain language specializations, such as medical, mental health, law, etc. They have a high level of proficiency and accuracy than a conversational sign language user.

Who certifies a sign language interpreter?

Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) is the leading organization in establishing a national standard of quality for sign language interpreters in the USA. They perform testing and rating for sign language interpreters nationally. Certified sign language interpreters are bound by a Code of Ethics for confidentiality, impartiality, and professionalism to ensure a true and accurate interpretation through RID.

Why can interpreters be so expensive?

Rates are based on factors related to the contracted task, such as level of experience or specific subject matter knowledge. For example, law and medical field interpreters tend to have higher rates. Interpreter certifications, the type of language used (Protactile, Haptics, ASL, Oral, etc.), location (city, rural, suburban), and sometimes transportation all factor in. Prices may vary between freelancers and interpreting services. Often, interpreting services have liability insurance coverage while freelancers generally do not. Prices also vary on number of hours worked, two team interpreting, CDI, and more.

Keep in mind, hiring an interpreter is likely not a frequent occurrence for most businesses. As a result, interpreting services are not normally included in a company budget. It becomes a “surprise” expense that may lead to resentment of the process as a whole. Please plan accordingly for the possibility of requiring accessibility services.

Why would I hire a Certified Deaf Interpreter, or CDI?

CDI's are Deaf people who are trained professionally to interpret for deaf clients who:

  • Speak a foreign language or may have no English or ASL communication skills
  • Have Usher’s Syndrome or other visual impairments that require the use of tactile communication
  • Have minimal language skill due to learning disabilities, low education, or home signs
  • Have physical disabilities, such as Cerebral Palsy, or mental health issues

One of the benefits of a CDI is that they can offer communication for the majority of participants and are able to provide a clear solution to a given interpreting situation. The greatest benefit of CDI's is focused on your Deaf clients. They will be much more at ease knowing that they are being understood completely and are in the care of those who recognize and have accounted for their needs.