Sign Language Interpreting Services (SLIS)

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Common Questions:

What do you mean 'Deaf Community'?

The Deaf Community is a general term used to refer to people who are Deaf and primarily (or solely) rely on American Sign Language for communication. 

Is the correct term 'Deaf' or 'hearing-impaired'?

Deaf is the correct term.  Deaf people are rightly proud of the title that points to their identity and language. 


The term 'hearing-impaired' usually refers to people who have lost their hearing later in life or who are unable to hear but do not primarily claim American Sign Language as their mode of communication.


Why not just write notes for communication?

 The first language of Deaf people is American Sign Language, not English.  The syntax and grammar are completely different.  Unless it is a short and simple note written in English (your  first language) it is most often misunderstood by Deaf people.  Conversely when a Deaf person writes a note to you, that is often misunderstood since they can be writing using ASL grammar.  Imagine another language being translated for you word-for-word into English, but following all the rules of the other language!  Huge misunderstandings result.  Unless the Deaf individual requests communication in written form, it is a dangerous practice.  See the question below 'Is American Sign Language the same as English...'


Is American Sign Language the same as English but using signs?

 American Sign Language is vastly different from English.  For example, in English double negatives mean a positive whereas in ASL double negative means emphasizing the negative.  In an English question, the verb comes first "Are you coming?' whereas in ASL a question looks exactly like a statement except for the signer's eyebrows.  A word such as 'very' or 'often' is normally not even signed, but it's the way the verb is signed that shows emphasis or repetition.  ASL is not English.


Can Deaf people drive?

 I am always amazed at this question.  Deaf people can do anything, except hear.  In fact they are far more visual than hearing people and much more likely to see something.  True, they could not hear a siren, but would more likely notice the flashing light in their rear view mirror or coming from a side direction.  There have been studies that show the driving records of Deaf people are better than those drivers who can hear.


Where can a Deaf person work?

 A Deaf person can work anywhere anyone else can - with the one exception being when ability to hear is required in the job description.  Note that with today's technology Deaf people can easily make phone calls with any hearing customers when that's required. Please see question below 'How can I call (by phone) a person who is Deaf...'

There are Deaf doctors, lawyers (even here in Denver), nurses, pediatricians, teachers, builders, college program directors, architects, IT specialists, actors, clergy - you  name it.   Keep in mind the extra effort and perseverance it took them to achieve their goals.  That should tell you the caliber of an average Deaf person.

A special note - Deaf people are very often denied jobs simply because of all the misconceptions about Deafness.  They are frequently the very best employees because of their ability to concentrate on a task and their willingness to see it through - something that has been a very integral part of their lives.  If you know of an employment opportunity I would be happy to pass that information on to some excellent Deaf folks who are looking for jobs.  Please see section on the left "Jobs Needed for Deaf People...".      


How can I call (by phone) a person who is Deaf?

 If a Deaf person gives you their phone number - simply call it!   To you it will seem like a normal call.  What is actually happening is this.  The number you are calling belongs the video phone of the Deaf person.  An interpreter at a remote VRS (Video Relay Services) center automatically picks up and will interpret your call. You speak normally as you would on any phone call to a hearing person.  The interpreter will then sign your words (via her videophone) to the Deaf person's videophone.  The Deaf person will answer in ASL and the interpreter will voice it to you.  Except for a few pauses here and there it will be just like a normal phone call.

Very often the Deaf person's videophone will have a 'sign message' option, so if they aren't home you can leave a message.


What is a videophone?

 Videophones have completely taken the place of tty machines.  Few (if any) Deaf people have or use a tty - so asking a Deaf person about a tty number is like asking a hearing person about their 8-track cassette players.
A videophone is just what you'd think.  There's is a screen and a camera used for communication.  If you've used a webcam you've got the idea.  The Deaf person (Joe) can call someone on the videophone and get connected to someone else with a videophone (Jane). Jane 'picks up' and sees John on her screen.  Instead of speaking, they use sign. 
In order for hearing people (who don't have videophones or don't know sign) to communicate with a Deaf individual, technology came up with a system.  There are now VRS centers all around the country, and around the world.  These are centers where interpreters sit at desks with a telephone and a videophone.  They receive the call from the hearing person, then make the call via videophone to the Deaf person and then interpret the call.  The beauty is that now the VRS interpreter is automatically pulled in every time a hearing person calls the Deaf person's number, so the hearing person hardly needs to know the person they're 'speaking to' is actually Deaf.



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