Sign language interpreters facilitate communication between hearing individuals who communicate verbally and deaf individuals who use manual communication, or sign language. American Sign Language is the manual language used in the United States, although deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals in other countries use different manual languages to communicate. Sign language interpreters can work in a variety of settings and are needed in courtrooms, hospitals, mental health facilities, schools, religious institutions, theaters, and other settings where deaf people are present. In fact, the Americans with Disabilities Act requires qualified sign language interpreters to be available in certain settings. Sign language interpreters can work as either independent contractors or employees of an institution that uses sign language interpreters.
Sign language interpreting is currently a lucrative and in-demand profession, and demand for sign language interpreters is likely to rise due to the use of video relay technology. A Video Relay Service or Video Interpretation Service allows better communication between the deaf and hearing communities. Using this technology, individuals use webcams and other videoconferencing devices to conduct video calls through a sign language interpreter. In addition to the fields listed above, sign language interpreters may find employment through telecommunication companies.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for an interpreter or translator is $43,300 annually, or $20.82 per hour, although pay is often determined by an individual's education, skill level, and amount of work experience. The job outlook for interpreters and translators is expected to increase 42% between 2010 and 2020, which is much faster than the national average.
Good interpreters can precisely and objectively convey messages between deaf and hearing clients quickly so that nothing is lost in translation. An effective interpreter will also be able to convey the speaker's emotions while translating. Sign language interpreters must also have physical stamina and endurance, as an occupational hazard of sign language interpreters is carpal tunnel syndrome. Interpreters must also be able to maintain their client's confidentiality by not discussing the conversations they interpret. The interpreter must be fluent in both English and sign language and must meet educational requirements in order to become certified. The Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID), which certifies sign language interpreters, has recently changed certification requirements for sign language interpreters. Beginning in July 2012, all hearing candidates for RID certification will have to have a bachelor's degree or higher, and all deaf candidates must have an associate degree or higher. Beginning in July 2016, all deaf candidates for RID certification will have to have a bachelor's degree or higher as well.
The RID allows for exam candidates to have bachelor's degrees in any field. Some of the certifications granted by the RID are the National Interpreter Certification (NIC), the Oral Transliteration Certificate (OTC), the Specialist Certificate: Legal (SC:L), the Educational Interpreter Certificate (ED: K-12), and the Certified Deaf Interpreter (CDI), a certification for deaf and hard of hearing sign language interpreters. The National Association of the Deaf also offers sign language interpretation certificates in three levels: average performance (NAD III), above average performance (NAD IV), and superior performance (NAD V).
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