Interpreters on Campus

An interpreter’s role is to facilitate communication and convey all auditory and signed information so that both hearing and deaf individuals may fully interact. This includes questions, answers, comments, and dialogue that occurs on the part of the professor/speaker as well as the other individuals in the class/meeting. The interpreter will “voice” for the deaf student if he/she does not use his or her own voice. In other words, the interpreter will vocally express in English whatever is signed, mouthed, or cued by the deaf student.

All interpreters who interpret for students at Butler University need to abide by the Code of Professional Conduct associated with the National Association of the Deaf – Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) and are expected to conduct themselves in a professional manner in all campus settings.  Guiding principles include the following:

  • Interpreters shall keep all assignment-related information strictly confidential.
  • Interpreters shall render the message faithfully, always conveying the content and spirit of the speaker, using language most readily understood by the person(s) whom they serve.
  • Interpreters shall not counsel, advise, or interject personal opinions.
  • Interpreters shall accept assignments using discretion with regard to skill, setting, and the interpreting needs of the students involved.
  • Interpreters shall request compensation for services in a professional and judicious manner.
  • Interpreters shall function in a manner appropriate to the situation.
  • Interpreters shall strive to further knowledge and skills through participation in workshops, professional meetings, interactions with professional colleagues, and reading of current literature in the field.
  • Interpreters shall strive to maintain high professional standards as outlined more fully and comprehensively in the NAD-RID Code of Professional Conduct.

As mentioned above, the interpreter’s obligation is to transmit information and facilitate communication while allowing the student and instructor/facilitator to actually control the communication interaction.  Instructors/facilitators should refrain from asking the interpreter to perform other tasks, such as functioning as a teacher’s aide or a participant in class activities, as this may interfere with the quality of communication provided and could compromise the role of the interpreter.

For further information, please contact Student Disability Services in Jordan Hall 136, by phone at 317-940-9308, or by email at

  • Please keep ‘lines of sight’ free so that the deaf student is able to access visual information. The interpreter will attempt to stand or sit in direct line with the instructor, the student, and any visual aids.
  • Interpreters normally interpret one or two sentences behind the speaker. It is important to speak naturally at a reasonable, modest pace, keeping in mind that the interpreter must listen and understand a complete thought before signing it.
  • Allow time during class discussions for question and answer periods in order for the deaf student to raise his/her hand, to be recognized, and ask questions through the interpreter. This will allow the interpreter time to finish interpreting the comments of other individuals in the classroom before beginning to interpret the comments or questions of the student who is deaf. It is also most helpful for instructors to wait until after the interpreter has finished signing the instructor’s question before calling on a student to answer the question. This allows deaf students the opportunity to see the full question and then raise their hands if they wish to participate.
  • It is important to look directly at, and speak directly to, the deaf student as this is the individual to whom you are actually communicating, not the interpreter. The interpreter will interpret the exact words that are stated so please avoid the use of third party phrases such as “ask her” or “tell him”.
  • For interactive situations, semi-circles or circles often work best for deaf and hard-of-hearing students.
  • Try to avoid talking while students are focused on textual materials or in-class written work as the deaf student will be unable to read or write as well as watch the interpreter at the same time.
  • For classes longer than one hour, please plan for at least one five minute, mid-class break so that the student and interpreter can enjoy a mental and physical break from the rigors of the situation. Receiving information visually can be tiring and cause eye fatigue for deaf individuals.
  • The interpreter is able to convey one message at a time so it is important that only one person speak/sign at a time. Instructors should inform the other students in the class about this and encourage the students to wait until the instructor/facilitator recognizes them before speaking or signing.
  • Many current films are captioned. Captioned films are needed because they allow the deaf student direct visual access to the information provided in the classroom. If closed captioning is unavailable on a movie or other audiovisual materials planned for use in the classroom, please contact Student Disability Services for a discussion as to how to best provide equitable access. In some cases, it may be possible for the interpreter to interpret the film but this requires prior discussion regarding a number of issues including lighting, positioning, etc.
  • For many deaf students, English is not their first language. In addition, some English words and terms do not have a signed equivalent. This may result in a deaf student having difficulties with the wording of some examination questions. An interpreter may be needed for the purpose of translating English text into sign language for examinations. The interpreter should not help the student with content or wording of his/her answer. Please direct any questions or concerns about this to Student Disability Services.
  • Some words, terms and names will need to be fingerspelled. Fingerspelling is a way of representing the alphabet on the hand and the interpreter will need to know the correct spelling. This can be facilitated by the instructor writing this type of information on the board or visual aid.
  • It is beneficial for the instructor/facilitator to provide handouts, presentation slides, and/or required readings to SDS prior to the first day of class. The information will be shared with the interpreter for advanced preparation for the course. SDS may sometimes secure desk copies of textbooks for the student’s required courses so that they can also be used by the interpreter for advanced preparation.
  • If the deaf individual(s) are not present when a class/meeting begins, the interpreter is expected to wait a few minutes for late arrival. If the deaf student does not arrive within 15 minutes after the start of the class, the interpreter may leave the classroom and is expected to notify Student Disability Services that the student did not make it to class. For your information, Butler University has adopted the no-show policy which is commonly used by colleges and universities. That is, a student who is absent on three occasions without informing SDS according to the guidelines stated in the Interpreter Guidelines for Students will be subject to suspension of services until he/she initiates and follows through on a discussion about this with Student Disability Services.