Developing a Certification Process for Sign Language Interpreters

A Vietnamese man stands at a conference table speaking in Sign Language to someone who is out of the picture. He is surrounded by four seated people, one of whom is taking notes.

Interpreter legislation in the United States is determined mostly at the state level and can vary greatly among the country’s fifty states. Perhaps the one national regulation is that court interpreters must meet standards established by the United States courts. Here are a few actions you can take to ensure that people who are Deaf will have access to quality interpretations:

  1. Lobby officials and pursue legal action to ensure that credentialed interpreters are required by law in any place of public accommodation, such as businesses open to the public.
  2. Search for influential advocates to promote the cause, such as judges, governing officers, and legislators.
  3. Push for funding mandates both before and after the law is passed with clear criteria for all costs associated with interpreting, including both the funds for paying for interpreter services as well as implementing the law and staffing the programs. In the U.S., the majority of mandated payments fall into four categories: Interpreter Services, Jury Payments, Arbitrators, and ADA Compliance.
  4. Collaborate with organizations who share similar goals to combine resources and avoid repetitive efforts. The National Center for State Courts (NCSC) model, an independent collaboration that provides research and education to state courts, is a good example of this within the U.S.

All deaf and many hard of hearing Americans are covered under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Below are additional relevant U.S. federal laws for interpreting that are relevant to persons with Limited English Proficiency. These additional laws apply, not only to people who use sign language but also immigrants and other people who might not be fluent in spoken English:

Visit for more information on federal laws.

See below for additional resources on interpreter certification and education in the U.S. and elsewhere.


U.S. Resources

Language Access in California – (Available in Spanish, English, and Vietnamese) Plan for language access in California state courts.

Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) – Plays a leading role in establishing qualifications for sign language interpreters in the United States

Commission on Collegiate Interpreter Education – Standards for establishing sign language interpreter education programs.

Information on the Americans with Disabilities Act

American Sign Language Teachers’ Association – Promotes good quality instruction in American Sign Language (ASL) and for certification of ASL teachers.

National Consortium of Interpreter Education Centers

Discover Interpreting

Regulations Governing Interpreter Requirements

Non-U.S. Resources

Australian Sign Language Interpreters’ Association (ASLIA)

Federación española de intérpretes – (In Spanish)

World Federation for the Deaf

World Association of Sign Language Interpreters (WASLI)