The national certifying body for interpreters is the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, Inc. (RID). The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) and RID provide a Code of Professional Conduct that all interpreters are expected to follow. The Code lists seven basic tenets:
- Interpreters adhere to standards of confidential communication.
- Interpreters possess the professional skills and knowledge required for the specific interpreting situation.
- Interpreters conduct themselves in a manner appropriate to the specific interpreting situation.
- Interpreters demonstrate respect for consumers.
- Interpreters demonstrate respect for colleagues, interns, and students of the profession.
- Interpreters maintain ethical business practices.
- Interpreters engage in professional development.
For more detailed information on their guiding principles, please refer to the ethics guide on the RID website.
For IEP Students
The following information and guidelines apply to all students in the Interpreter Education Program:
ASL is a complex, living language that may take several years to master. A language cannot be learned without understanding the culture and the people who use the language. For this reason, students are required to attend community events, attend presentations of guest speakers, and satisfy other assignments that require interaction with people who are Deaf.
While one or two semesters of instruction and practice can provide an individual with basic communication skills, it is not sufficient time to develop interpreting skills. Interpreting is a highly skilled profession that involves not only mastery of two languages but additional skills that are not taught in sign language classes. Knowledge of ASL or sign systems does not automatically make a person an interpreter.
Sign language students are signers and communicators and are not qualified to interpret. The process of interpretation is a complex, cognitive process. Students majoring in Interpretation: ASL/English begin receiving instruction in this skill during the 3rd year of the B.A. degree. At this time, students will take their first evaluation to obtain interpreting credentials (QAST). Professional credentials are issued to persons who satisfy the criteria of standardized evaluations such as Quality Assurance Screening Test (QAST), the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, Inc. (RID) and the Educational Interpreter Performance Assessment (EIPA). If a student does not hold any credentials, s/he should not be accepting ANY interpreting assignments. If a student is approached to interpret, s/he politely should inform the person that as a sign language student s/he is not qualified to interpret. If students have any questions or need guidance in making ethical decisions, they may discuss the matter with any member of the IEP faculty.
Under NO circumstances is an “unqualified interpreter better than no interpreter at all.” Arrangements will have to be made to find a qualified person. If poor services are provided, most hearing persons and/or contracting agencies will unknowingly assume the job was performed satisfactorily. Interpreting students who are in scheduled internship settings through the interpreting program may interpret under supervision with the approval of the internship instructor and are expected to adhere to the NAD-RID Code of Professional Conduct. Should a student feel that his/her skills are sufficient to begin interpreting, s/he should speak with one of the IEP faculty to discuss the QAST and referral to the QAST Coordinator, and must be licensed by the Arkansas Department of Health; Advisory Board for Interpreters for the Deaf.
In 2013, the state of Arkansas passed legislation that requires interpreters to obtain a license to work as an interpreter.