Section 504 symbols    


When using an interpreter…

  • Speak clearly in a normal tone and at a natural pace; do not exaggerate lip movements (if the person who is deaf or hard of hearing has speechreading skills, exaggerated mouth movements will distort rather than enhance understanding).

  • Make sure there is adequate lighting. Avoid lighting that places a shadow on the interpreter or that makes it difficult to see the interpreter's hands and face - for example, in front of a window or with bright or glaring light placed behind the interpreter.

  • If possible, position the interpreter so that the person who is deaf or hard of hearing can see both the interpreter and the speaker.

  • If speakers during your event are likely to use acronyms, jargon, or vocabulary peculiar to your field, it is helpful to provide the interpreter with a list of such terms and their definitions.

  • Speak directly to the person who is deaf or hard of hearing and avoid phrases like, "tell him" or "ask her."

  • Maintain eye contact with the person who is deaf or hard of hearing, not with the interpreter. It may help to remind yourself that your conversation is with the person who is deaf or hard of hearing, not with the interpreter. This may seem difficult at first because you will hear the interpreter's voice and will see the person who is deaf or hard of hearing shifting his gaze between you and the interpreter. Keep in mind that the person who is deaf or hard of hearing must look at the interpreter in order to understand what you are saying.

  • Realize that the interpreter is speaking for the person who is deaf or hard of hearing. When the interpreter says, "I" or "me," she is speaking as the person who is deaf or hard of hearing, not as herself.

  • Do not attempt to have private conversations with a working interpreter. It is the job of the interpreter to convey everything that is said or heard, including your efforts at engaging her attention.

  • In large gatherings where microphones are used, make sure that the interpreters providing sign to voice interpretation have a microphone and are placed with a clear line of sight, in front of the speaker who is deaf or hard of hearing.

  • Situations requiring one or more hours of interpreting may call for more than one interpreter. A team of two interpreters helps reduce the possibility of errors and lessens the likelihood of injury due to the stressful repetitive motions required by interpreting. When interpreters work as a team, they will generally switch roles every twenty to thirty minutes.

  • If you are in doubt as to the best arrangements for your situation, ask the interpreters and the people who are deaf and hard of hearing. They are the experts on what will work best for them.

Study of fatigue confirms need for working in teams130

'[M]ost people do not realize that an interpreter uses at least 22 cognitive skills when interpreting,' states Patricia Michelsen in an article published in The Court Management and Administration Report. Other studies of simultaneous interpretation have shown that fatigue is exacerbated by environmental factors that interfere with various aspects of the cognitive process…

While these studies make an important contribution to the body of scientific data needed for a better understanding of the interpreting process and its complexities, they merely corroborate what practicing interpreters have known and argued all along: that work quality - i.e., accuracy and coherence - begins to deteriorate after approximately 30 minutes of sustained simultaneous interpreting, and that the only way to ensure a faithful rendition of legal proceedings is to provide interpreters with adequate relief at approximately half-hour intervals.

Conscientious administrators in several federal courts, the United Nations and the U.S. State Department recognized the need for tandem interpreting adopted the practice early on. Team interpreting, in fact, dates back to the Nuremberg trials. At the State Department, which according to Harry Obst, Director of the Office of Language Services, handles 200 to 300 interpreting missions in 100 different locations per day, it is considered an inviolable policy. In response to a request from Ed Baca of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, Obst pointed out that 'The policy on simultaneous interpreters is simple and corresponds to that of all other responsible interpreting services in the entire world (United Nations, European Commission, International Red Cross, International Court of Justice, foreign ministries in other nations.) No individual simultaneous interpreter is allowed to work for more than 30 minutes at a time.' The letter continues, 'This is also done for the protection of the users. After 30 minutes the accuracy and completeness of simultaneous interpreters decrease precipitously, falling off by about 10% every 5 minutes after holding a satisfactory plateau for half an hour.' The reason, Obst explains, is that 'The human mind cannot hold the needed level of focused concentration any longer than that. This fact has been demonstrated in millions of hours of simultaneous interpretation around the world since 1948. It is not a question of opinion. It is simply the result of empirical observation.'"131

Code of Ethics (Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf)132

The Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, Inc. [RID] is the national professional association for sign language interpreters in the United States. RID maintains and administers the certifying examination system for interpreters nationwide. RID has set forth the following principles of ethical behavior to protect and guide interpreters, transliterators, and hearing and deaf consumers of interpreting services. Underlying these principles is the desire to ensure the right to communicate for all.

This Code of Ethics applies to all members of the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, Inc. and to all certified non-members.

  1. Interpreters/transliterators shall keep all assignment-related information strictly confidential.

  2. Interpreters/transliterators 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.

  3. Interpreters/transliterators shall not counsel, advise or interject personal opinions.

  4. Interpreters/transliterators shall accept assignments using discretion with regard to skill, setting, and the consumers involved.

  5. Interpreters/transliterators shall request compensation for services in a professional and judicious manner.

  6. Interpreters/transliterators shall function in a manner appropriate to the situation.

  7. Interpreters/transliterators shall strive to further knowledge and skills through participation in work-shops, professional meetings, interaction with professional colleagues, and reading of current literature in the field.

Interpreters/transliterators, by virtue of membership or certification by the RID, Inc., shall strive to maintain high professional standards in compliance with the Code of Ethics.


Assistive listening devices (ALDs) increase the volume of a desired sound, such as the soundtrack of a movie or the voice of a tour guide, without increasing the loudness of background noises. Some assistive listening devices are also used to convey audio descriptions to visitors with visual impairments

It is estimated that one out of every 10 people in the U.S. has a significant hearing loss, ranging from 25 dB (mild) to 90 dB (severe). About half of them are older adults. Among people with hearing loss, some wear hearing aids or use other devices to enhance what hearing they have, and some read lips.

ALDs are made up of two parts: the transmitter and the receiver. The transmitter picks up the sound and converts it to a signal, which it then sends out. The receiver picks up a signal and transmits it to the user. Several receivers can pick up the signal from a single transmitter.

There are several types of ALD systems:

Infrared systems transmit sounds via light waves to users wearing receivers. The receiver must be in the transmitter's line of sight to function properly. This limits where listeners with receivers can be located, but it also prevents spillover of sound into other areas. Sunlight and bright incandescent light interfere with the transmitter signal, so an IR system may not be a good choice for outdoors. IR systems are often used in movies, conferences, and live performances.

FM systems transmit sounds via radio waves. With this system, the speaker wears a compact microphone and transmitter while the listener has a portable receiver with headphones or earphones. FM systems are commonly used when the speaker is required to move around. This system is not affected by light, but may experience radio interference. The same system can serve multiple uses (e.g. translations, audio descriptions, etc.) because it can transmit and receive multiple frequencies.134

Inductive or audio loop systems transmit sounds using an electromagnetic field. A special amplifier and microphone used by the speaker send signals through a loop of wire installed around the listening area. Hearing aids equipped with telecoil circuits receive these signals and transmit them as sound to the listener. Listeners who do not have hearing aids or telecoil circuits can use receivers that pick up the signal.

7. CART (Communication Access Realtime Translation)135

What is it?
Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) is a word-for-word speech-to-text interpreting service for people who need communication access. Unlike computerized notetaking or abbreviation systems, which summarize information for consumers, CART provides a complete translation of all spoken words and environmental sounds, empowering consumers to decide for themselves what information is important to them. CART consumers include people with hearing loss; individuals with cognitive or motor challenges; anyone desiring to improve reading/language skills; and those with other communication barriers. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) specifically recognizes CART as an assistive technology that affords effective communication access.

How it's done
A CART provider uses a steno machine, notebook computer, and realtime software to render instant speech-to-text translation on a computer monitor or other display for the benefit of an individual consumer or larger group in a number of settings: classrooms; business, government, and educational functions; courtrooms; religious, civic, cultural, recreation, or entertainment events. A CART provider is sensitive to the varying needs of consumers and has had training in conveying a speaker's message, complete with environmental cues. This expertise distinguishes a CART provider from a court reporter in a traditional litigation setting.

NCRA's Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) designation is nationally recognized and at this time is considered a requisite for CART providers. Attainment of the Certified Realtime Reporter (CRR) designation is recommended.

last reviewed/updated on April 2003 

If you have questions, concerns or need assistance in regard to disability issues, please do not hesitate to contact us at

Skip FCC Footer and Contact InfoFederal Communications Commission
445 12th Street SW
Washington, DC 20554
More FCC Contact Information...
Phone:  1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322)
TTY:  1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322)
Fax:  1-866-418-0232
- Privacy Policy
- Website Policies & Notices
- Required Browser Plug-ins
- Freedom of Information Act