INFORMATION FOR AMERICAN SIGN LANGUAGE (ASL) COURT INTERPRETERS
NAJIT is not just for spoken language interpreters. NAJIT boasts a growing number of interpreters who work between English and American Sign Language (ASL). While many may not believe that Deaf or hard of hearing people have much in common with the limited English proficient individuals who often receive the interpreting services of NAJIT members, there is much that ASL interpreters and spoken language interpreters can learn from each other.
Sign language interpreters have been organized as a profession since the early 1960s and have trained and tested court interpreters since the early 1970s. In part with the help of federal funding, the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf was established in 1964 to train, test and publish a central registry of competent interpreters. Because Deaf and hard of hearing people have been included under the protection of disability statutes, interpreting for the deaf has been statutorily mandated in nearly all public settings by state or federal law. As a result, sign language interpreters have broad experience interpreting in various settings such as schools, hospitals, theater performances, business settings, and community events in addition to interpreting in the legal setting.
Sign language interpreters are active on the state, local and national level in advocating for better services in legal settings for Deaf and hard of hearing people. The federal government funds the National Consortium of Interpreter Education Centers and the Mid-America Regional Interpreter Education Center (“MARIE”) is the Center on Excellence in Legal Interpreting and hosts national conferences as well as sponsoring on-going legal education for ASL interpreters. On the state level many statutes are written which define qualified ASL interpreters as those holding certification from the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf. A number of states also have licensure laws which define the qualifications sign language interpreters must hold to work in various settings in the state. Additionally, because certified interpreters must take continuing education to maintain their credentials, the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf hosts conferences on the national, regional and state levels which typically provide sessions devoted to legal interpreting.
For legal sign language interpreters to crowning achievement is the Specialist Certificate: Legal (SC: L) from the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf. After receiving regular generalist certification, the ASL interpreter must present documented evidence of education and experience in legal interpreting to qualify to sit for the written knowledge test. Once having qualified and passed the written examination, the ASL interpreter must sit for the interpreting examination which tests the ability to work in the courtroom and for certain law enforcement texts. The examination also tests the interpreter’s ability to testify as to their skills, experience and credentials on voir dire.
NAJIT offers many benefits to its members that are attractive to legal sign language interpreters. NAJIT is well known among court administrators and the judiciary. NAJIT’s Bench-Bar committee and its Advocacy Committee work in partnership with the courts to improve access to services for limited English proficient people and working conditions for interpreters. NAJIT’s publication Proteus contains timely and interesting articles of use to all interpreters and some articles specifically by and about sign language interpreters. NAJIT hosts an annual conference with presentations on topics of interest to both spoken and sign language interpreters. In recent years, more and more sign language interpreters have applied and been accepted to present to the wider NAJIT membership. Finally, NAJIT hosts a lively yahoogroup listserve which allows its members to discuss issues of the day on a timely basis with colleagues.
The Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf
The Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf offers a generalist certification for sign language interpreters as well as a specialist certification in legal interpreting.
National Consortium of Legal Interpreting has best practice information for American Sign Language interpreters working in legal and quasi-legal settings.