Southern California Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf

Deaf Interpreter FAQs

1. What is a Deaf Interpreter?

A Deaf Interpreter is a specialist who provides cultural and linguistic expertise. A Deaf Interpreter provides interpreting, translation, and transliteration service in Sign Language (or written language) and other visual and tactual communication forms used by individuals who are Deaf, DeafBlind, DeafDisabled, Hard of Hearing, or Late-Deafened.

As a Deaf person, the Deaf Interpreter starts with a distinct set of formative linguistic, cultural, and life experiences that enables nuanced comprehension and interaction in a wide range of visual language and communication forms influenced by region, culture, age, literacy, education, class, and physical, cognitive, and mental health. These experiences coupled with professional training give the Deaf interpreter the ability to effect successful communication across all types of interpreted interactions, both routine and high risk.


For more detailed information on what Deaf Interpreter is:

2. What is the function of a Deaf Interpreter?

The function of a Deaf Interpreter is to ensure the interpretation provided is accurate and faithful to the intent of the participants in the conversation. They do not provide counseling or advocacy.


3. What are the benefits of using a Deaf Interpreter?

Deaf Interpreter(s) is always a great addition to the interpreting team. Deaf Interpreters have extensive knowledge and experience with the Deaf community which can enhance the interpreting experience.

  • optimal understanding by all parties
  • efficient use of time and resources
  • clarification of linguistic and/or cultural confusion and misunderstanding(s)
  • arrival at a clear conclusion in the interpreting situation


Additional Information and Examples:

4. Being a Deaf Interpreter means you are skilled with gestural communication, or work with DeafBlind people?

No, a Deaf Interpreter is a generalist that works with everyday situations. One might occasionally accept on an assignment that works with DeafBlind individual. Some are full time Deaf Interpreter. Some work more in a specialized areas such as legal, medical, DeafBlind Interpreter (DBI), community, platform, or workshop/conference.

5. When is a Deaf Interpreter recommended?

A Deaf interpreter is highly recommended in situations where misunderstandings could result in serious outcomes. For instance:

  • in court, where a person could be wrongly convicted
  • by the police when interviewing victims, witnesses or suspects who are deaf
  • in mental health settings, where clear and accurate communication assists professionals in determining correct diagnoses, medication or other interventions
  • in news briefings which provide critical updates to the public
  • by Children’s Aid Society workers to ensure children are thoroughly protected


Those who have been in traumatic situations, for example victims of assault or people who are deaf in the Emergency Room, might be best able to communicate through a deaf interpreter. In situations when a deaf individual is subject to police interrogation or asked to provide a statement, a deaf interpreter can offer the critical nuanced understanding that can mean the difference between conviction and acquittal. There are some people who are deaf whose needs will best be met by a deaf interpreter in any medical setting or legal situation, since the outcomes here can deeply impact a person’s life.


6. What does the process look like with a Deaf Interpreter involved?

With Deaf Interpreter(s) involved, they serve as an equal member of the interpreting team along with hearing interpreters. The CDI interprets the message from the deaf consumer to the hearing interpreter and the hearing interpreter then relays the message to the hearing consumer. The same is true in reverse.


7. Where can I see Deaf Interpreter in action? 

They are everywhere. Smile. See below for a sample clip derived from several public sources.

8. What Deaf Interpreters Want You to Know About Their Job

There are many different situations that call for deaf interpreters, and all deaf interpreters have different strengths. Deaf interpreters can effectively fill the knowledge and information gaps in nuanced discussions while improving the accuracy of the message as it is understood by the deaf individual. They can help to identify consumer strengths and weaknesses, background, and experience and then, from that place, help to filter through information. 


9. What is a Certified Deaf Interpreter?

Certified Deaf Interpreter (CDI) is one of the certificates provided by Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID). A person who possess CDI certificate has passed both knowledge and performance portion of the exam.

Additional Info:

10. What are the requirements in order to get certified as a CDI?

  • audiogram or letter from audiologist
  • proof of 40 hours training
    8 Hours - Introduction to Interpreting
    8 Hours - Process of Interpretation
    8 Hours - NAD-RID Code of Professional Conduct
    16 Hours - Elective(s) of your choice
  • proof of an associate degree (the requirement will be changed to a bachelor's degree six months after the new CDI Performance Exam is available for test administration)
  • CDI Knowledge Exam
  • CDI Performance Exam


11. Is there any good starter book that is highly recommended to read?

"So You Want to be An Interpreter? An Introduction to Sign Language Interpreting" by Janice H. Humphrey and Bob J. Alcorn is a good book to provide you with a good picture of the interpreting profession to start with.

12. I'm interested in learning more about this profession. Where do I start?

Two recommendations.

  1. The best place to start is to volunteer with a local DeafBlind organization. They are always looking for volunteers either as support service provider or an interpreter. This will give you the opportunity to approach language and culture from outside of your own and to better understand how hearing interpreters approach our language and culture as well.
  2. Take a 40 hours training from a Deaf Interpreter instructor(s). I highly recommend checking with your network to see which instructor(s) best fit your interest best to help you succeed.

13. Local Resources

  • Southern California Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf
    Jerrin George - Deaf Member at Large
  • Deaf Interpreter Professionals in Training [DIP-it] (Fresno, California)
    Rosemary Wanis /Rachel Kleist / Jim Burne - 40 Hour Training Facilitators

14. Additional Resources

National Deaf Interpreter (NDI)

CDI Facebook Group -

Deaf Interpreter Institute -

National Interpreter Education Center Deaf Interpreter Curriculum -

Deaf Interpreter Series on YouTube -

RID's information about the CDI certification test

RID CDI Handbook -