Texas Tech University

Interpreter Information


Sign Language Interpreter signing In order to receive interpreting services in the classroom, a student must be approved through Student Disability Services (SDS). Approval is contingent upon documentation of disability. Each semester a student enrolls for courses and desires interpreting services, the student must make contact with the Interpreter Coordinator to request services. Once approved, interpreting services are guaranteed for the entire semester, and students are expected to adhere to the guidelines established by SDS and approved by the Office of Civil Rights (OCR). Services are determined each semester and are on a case-by-case basis.

To receive interpreter services, the student must contact the Interpreter Coordinator at least two weeks before the semester begins, place a request for interpreting services for the upcoming semester, and provide a current schedule. This process must be followed so that we can efficiently provide services and accommodations on the first day of class. If a student makes any changes to his or her course schedule, he or she must notify the Interpreter Coordinator immediately. Upon notification, the Interpreter Coordinator will provide appropriate services/accommodations as soon as possible.

For outside class requirements, such as field trips or other assigned activities, as well as meeting with professors during office hours, students should request an interpreter from SDS. The interpreter request form is for students who are currently registered with SDS and is intended for academic purposes on the main Texas Tech University campus only. Interpreter requests for events lasting less than 3 hours require at least 72 hours advance notice. Requests submitted with less than the required 72 hours' notice cannot be guaranteed. Interpreter requests for events lasting longer than 3 hours (e.g. conferences, training, etc.) require at least 3 weeks advance notice in order for our office to determine the appropriate accommodations. Events outside of Lubbock will be considered on a case-by-case basis contingent on availability of interpreter services in the area.

*Note: In the event that interpreters are not available, other appropriate services will be considered (e.g.RCART, UbiDuo, FM System, or other supportive technology).


Sign language interpreters are trained professionals who provide a culturally appropriate communication link between deaf/hard of hearing and hearing individuals. Interpreters have education in the field and a certification by a state/national board, which must be maintained by Continuing Education Units. Interpreters follow the Standards of Ethical Behavior established by the Texas Board for Evaluation of Interpreters (BEI). For more information visit the Office of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services (DHHS) or the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) website. It is a conflict of interest to be both an active participant and a neutral communicator between deaf/hard of hearing and hearing persons. Therefore, it is not the interpreter's role to advise, edit, advocate, teach, participate, or have conversations with students while in the interpreting situation. The interpreter must faithfully convey the spirit and content of the speaker. Interpreters do not interject personal opinions. Deaf, hard of hearing and hearing persons using interpreter services have the right to control the communication interaction and make their own decisions. Interpreters will not answer questions of clarification or explanation; students should direct questions toward the professor. The professor can give a better explanation as to how it may relate to the class material.


  • The interpreter will position himself or herself so the deaf or hard of hearing student can have a clear line of sight of the teacher, the interpreter, and any visual aids.
  • Make sure there is adequate lighting in the classroom.
  • Speak at your normal pace.
  • Talk directly to the person who is Deaf or hard of hearing as if the interpreter is not present. For example, say "The meeting will be Friday at 9:00 a.m.," rather than, "Tell him or her that the meeting will be Friday at 9:00 a.m."
  • Don't request that the interpreter not interpret something you say. It is the interpreter's job to interpret everything that is heard.
  • Often there will be a pause in the interpretation. The interpreter is taking time to receive the complete thought and render an accurate interpretation.
  • Provide the interpreter a copy of any handouts given to students. This allows the interpreter to scan over the material and prepare an accurate translation of the message.
  • Allow time for a pause when referring to handouts or visual aids. If you do not pause, the student may miss part of the message because he or she is looking over the materials.
  • Do not communicate vital information in high traffic areas or while walking. For example, don't tell a Deaf person that the date has changed for the next exam while walking down the hall. The Deaf person must watch you, the interpreter, and where they are going; this could lead to missed information.
  • Do not ask the interpreter to take on any responsibility other than relaying information.
  • Seek clarification if needed.

Interpreters in the Classroom

Language & Spelling

American Sign Language is a separate language from English. The interpreter is not signing word-for-word signs that correspond to English words. Instead he/she is interpreting the content and intent into a functionally equivalent message. The interpreter will have to fingerspell important vocabulary and names for which there is no sign. It is helpful for the teacher to write technical vocabulary and names on the board so the student and interpreter can see the correct spelling.

Interpreter Preparation

To help the interpreters prepare for providing the most accurate interpretation possible, before class, try to share with them your:

  • Lecture notes,
  • Slideshow presentations,
  • Handouts/worksheets, and
  • Spare copy of the textbook.

This will help them to interpret the concepts, to spell words correctly, and to activate knowledge of key vocabulary that the student needs to see fingerspelled in English.

Processing Time

There will be a delay between what is said and what is signed because of "lag time" or processing time. Therefore, you should increase your wait time when calling on the deaf student to answer. By the time the interpretation is rendered, you may have already pointed to a diagram or made a meaningful motion that the deaf student missed because of the delay. Try to prolong your pointing and gesturing so the deaf student can have time to watch the interpreter for the message then look over at the board/diagram/screen.

Interpreter Placement

The deaf student needs to have a good line of sight to see the interpreter, the teacher, and the board or screen. Kushalnagar (2008) suggests that the deaf student needs the interpreter to sit to the right side of the teacher because research shows that ASL users are better at spotting movement in their right sight field and that the left hemisphere spots and processes things on the right faster. However, placement is determined by the classroom environment and the deaf student's needs.

Kushalnagar, P. (2008). Proceedings from the annual Texas Society of Interpreters for the Deaf Conference: Understanding the deaf student's brain: Challenges in the Mainstream Classroom with Interpreters. Houston, TX: TSID.

Interpreter's Role

The interpreter follows a Code of Professional Conduct and adheres to the role of communication facilitator.
The interpreter is not there to make comments, give advice, or participate in the class. It is distracting when attention is called to the interpreter or signs. This disrupts the flow of interpreting and may embarrass the student.

How to Use an Interpreter

When using an interpreter, make eye contact with the deaf student and speak directly to the deaf student. Do not say, "Tell him this..." or "Ask her..." An interpreter is ethically bound to interpret whatever is said. She will interpret even when you say, "Don't tell him this..." or "You don't have to interpret this." Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the deaf student has equal access to communication through the interpreter.

Team Interpreting

You may have two interpreters in your classroom at a time. Both team members are actively engaged - one interpreting, one providing feedback or supporting cues. They will switch discreetly every 20 minutes on average to avoid repetitive motion injuries and to keep their mind fresh. The mental processes of interpreting can be taxing for prolonged periods of time. Having two interpreters work together increases the accuracy of the message and reduces errors.


If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask us before or after class or to send us an email. We're happy to answer questions! Do understand that we will respect the student's autonomy and right to privacy, so we may redirect you to the student to answer personal questions.

Student Disability Services