Accommodations in the Classroom: Not Just an Issue for People with Disabilities

Every day we accommodate for our own incapacities. We also manage to accommodate for the incapacities of others. I was reminded of this when I came cross this email from a middle school principal to the parents of enrolled students.

Accommodations Letter from Principal

What I found ironic is that the email itself did not address the fact that there is a student among the 12 – 13 year olds who is blind. The principal’s concern was focused on the other students and the parents of the other students — allergies and fears of animals.

I applaud the comprehensive concern and was so intrigued by it that I decided to look at accommodations in the classroom not from the student’s with disability perspective but from the students and faculty who learn, teach and live around him and how together, we can all create environments where students thrive.

Three Critical Success Factors for Accommodations in the Classroom

When we compared our own experiences at NWI Global with research of attitudes in the classroom, readiness by school administration, and compliance to laws, we found there to be three factors that play into the successes of schools enrolling students with disabilities.

1. Process: Being Prepared for Enrolling Students with Disabilities

The email from the middle school principal was sent in August. This particular middle school is located in Northern Virginia — an area known to welcome military families frequently throughout the school year. I’m not making the assumption that this student is military but I am drawing the comparison to the unforeseen reasons why any school, K-12 or higher education, needs to be ready to manage the accommodations of students with disabilities.

In fact, in the United States and in accordance with Title III of the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, public and private schools and colleges & universities must provide an equal opportunity to students with disabilities, so they can participate in and benefit fully from school services and classroom instruction. This is not an option, but that doesn’t mean it’s happening in all educational instructions throughout the country.

A proactive process for handling accommodations in the classroom will inevitably make relationships between peers, between student and faculty, and between school and parent a much smoother and more productive experience.

2. Culture: Attitudes Surrounding Accommodations in the Classroom

A program for managing accommodations is one that can be and should be replicated and the repetition will help to build greater understanding, tolerance, and cooperation among all of the stakeholder groups comprising an educational institution. These characteristics and attitudes will build a culture that is supportive of diversity and disability.

Despite the fact that accommodations are beneficial to the wellbeing of students with disabilities and their success in the classroom, a recent Rowan University study found that a significant number of students at the college and university level may not avail themselves to accommodation services.

The study found that one of the factors that may influence the decision of college students with disabilities to request or avoid accommodations is the attitudes of surrounding students and faculty; hence, researchers have strongly suggested that ensuring a more tolerate and accepting culture for diversity, including disability, will in turn create more positive attitudes towards requesting accommodations for students with disabilities and help to make their educational experiences successful ones.

3. Compliance: Defining Accommodations and Requirements

The aforementioned study of attitudes toward accommodations in the classroom, surveyed its respondents to understand the types of accommodations that they were requesting or in some cases availing due to the tenuous culture.

Below is a chart of responses:

Accommodations Survey

From our own experiences, we can add translation and interpretation services for the non-English speaking, Deaf, and hard of hearing communities which can come in the form of spoken and sign language interpreters, remote captioning (CART), and other technologies to assist in the communication translation/interpretation process.

Service Dog

No matter what the specific accommodation, whether digital book or a Golden-doodle, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires businesses, services providers, and schools, colleges & universities to provide equal opportunity to persons with disabilities.

Further, any of these types of organizations receiving federal financial assistance in the form of grants, tax payer funded programs and/or student tuition assistance must be ready to offer necessary accommodations to any student who is requesting and who shows need.

Creating Success for Schools and All Students

For more information on how you can create successful environments where accommodations come into play, we suggest you contact NWI Global to review your current state and how we can help you prepare a proactive process for future enrollment of students with disabilities, to share experiences about creating positive attitudes around accommodations, and to ensure that your school is compliance with ADA and Section 504 requirements.

Additionally, here are some links to resources that you may find useful and/or were referenced in this article:

Need assistance with language access services in classroom settings?

Let’s discuss your specific needs. Contact us.

Sign Language Interpreting, ADA and Section 504 Compliance Explained

Providing Accommodations for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Individuals in Educational Settings

Imagine going through life without the ability to fully hear what’s going on around you. This would certainly impact your communication with others around you in both personal and professional life.

For a person who can speak and hear, it’s just a matter of talking and listening. Both are fairly mundane and repetitive tasks that we don’t think twice about.

For a Deaf or hard of hearing person, it’s a hurdle that must be overcome on a daily basis especially when communicating with someone who can hear.

Thankfully, unlike in many other parts of the world, the U.S. laws offer protections to persons with disabilities. It is up to the educational institutions to comply with those laws.

Laws Applicable to Educational Institutions

Whether it’s a private or state-funded educational institution, the following laws may apply and have to be complied with.

1. Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

According to the Title III of the ADA, businesses and services providers (including private trade schools, colleges & universities), must provide an equal opportunity to persons with disabilities, so they can participate in and benefit from their services.

Similar to the above, Title II of the ADA applies to state and local government agencies (including public trade schools, colleges & universities).

2. Rehabilitation Act of 1973

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act requires public and private entities that are recipients of federal financial assistance to ensure effective communication with people who are Deaf and hard of hearing.

Federal financial assistance includes grants, tax payer funded programs and student tuition assistance (FAFSA).

Complying with the Laws

While compliance may seem fairly straight forward, it is not always easy to implement.

One of the easiest ways to comply with both the ADA and Section 504 is by providing appropriate auxiliary aids and services to the Deaf and hard of hearing students, such as qualified sign language interpreters.

Sign language interpreters will help to ensure effective communication between all parties involved.

Working with Sign Language Interpreters

There are four ways you can work sign language interpreters.

1. Hire Individual Interpreters as Employees

Recommended for single campus schools that have an ongoing need to communicate with Deaf and hard of hearing students. One of the benefits of going this route is that the interpreters are your employees and are available for continuous work.

Of course, if you don’t have any Deaf students at any given time, you are still paying the interpreters for idle time. Something to think about when you prepare your annual budget.

2. Contract with Individual Interpreters on a Freelance Basis

Recommended for single or multi-campus schools. Having the ability to contract with individual interpreters to supplement a pool of employed interpreters is highly recommended.

This approach will fill the gap in the event your employed interpreters are unavailable for whatever reason.

Contracted interpreters generally bill out at a higher rate, but you are not committed to them as you would be to employed interpreters. So, the overall impact on your budget is less in the long run.

3. Contract with Language Service Companies

Recommended for multi-campus schools located around the United States. Contracting with language service companies will simplify your scheduling processes and other logistics.

It is important that you find a company that can handle nationwide service delivery with quality and consistency. This will save you time and money, while meeting all of the necessary compliance requirements.

Learn how to request an interpreter from a language service company here.

4. All of the above

Why not have options?

Having interpreters on staff and contract basis, as well as a pool of language service companies, will surely help you cover all the bases.

However, from a management and budgetary perspective it could be a bit cumbersome.

Going this route is recommended for large educational institutions.

What Happens if You Don’t Comply

If you are not currently in compliance with the ADA and Section 504, I recommend you adjust your organizational processes immediately. Some of the concerns you should think about include federal audits, suspensions from federally funded programs, fines, penalties and discrimination law suits.

Thinking proactively and focusing on compliance now will save you money in the long run.

Recently, a Deaf man sued a Washington state-based university for discrimination. His claim was that the school refused to allow him to study medicine because he is Deaf.

Even though the university involved in this case claims that it does not discriminate against Deaf people, the fact that the law suit was filed alleging discrimination is already detrimental to its operations.

I believe the law suit could’ve been avoided entirely if the university fully complied with the ADA and Section 504 requirements.

Steps toward Compliance and Improved Organizational Processes

I recommend assessing your existing ADA and Section 504 compliance processes. You are most likely already compliant, but there’s always room for improvement.

One of the areas you should focus on is your current sign language interpreting process. If you employ in-house interpreters, that’s terrific.

But what if one of those interpreters gets sick, can’t make it to work or goes on maternity leave?

These are the kinds of things you should be thinking about. Having a contract with a language service company would help you mitigate that.

Overall, your focus should be on your students and making sure they have access to effective communication, regardless of whether they can hear or not.

More Information on Compliance

Here is list of some great resources on ADA and Section 504 compliance:

You can also download this article in PDF format. Click here to download.

Feel free to share your thoughts on this topic in the comments.

Need assistance with ADA and Section 504 compliance?

Let’s discuss your specific needs.

Contact us to get started.

3 Reasons to Provide Interpreters for Your Customers

For businesses in certain industries, it’s a fairly common practice to provide interpreters for their customers. In this article, I will use the healthcare industry as an example, where the patient is a customer.

You may view providing interpreters as just another unnecessary business expense. Let me show you why it is necessary and how working with interpreters can be beneficial to you, regardless of the industry you are in.

Whether you are a seasoned consumer of interpreting services or are just now looking into launching a language access program, I will give you three solid reasons to provide interpreters for your customers.

1. Increase Brand Awareness

Everyone wants their business to be successful, and one way to do that is to create brand awareness. As a healthcare practice, you might be doing that by sponsoring local events, investing in your online presence and offering referral discounts.

Why not advertise the fact that you also provide language interpreters?

Brand Awareness

It’s true that some states and insurance companies will reimburse you for providing interpreters for your patients, while most of the time you will have to cover the cost directly. If you pay for interpreters directly, here’s how to justify it as a marketing expense.

Run a local awareness campaign, advertising that you serve diverse communities of patients who speak Spanish, Russian, Vietnamese and other languages. Include that you also serve the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community with the help of sign language interpreters.

Such an approach will only help increase brand awareness of your business in the local community and allow you to justify interpreters as a marketing expense.

Providing interpreters for your customers will improve your position in the market you’re serving. By limiting your communication to one language, you do not realize the full potential of your business. Turn that around by letting your customers know you can serve them in many languages.

2. Improve Customer Satisfaction

Every business wants satisfied customers. After all, satisfied customers tell friends and colleagues about their experience interacting with you. They may even leave a review about your business on Yelp or elsewhere.

Ratings and Reviews

Your job is to leverage that to your advantage. Be known as that awesome clinic that helps all patients, regardless of the language they speak (or sign). Don’t be the clinic that takes shortcuts and lacks in providing a great patient experience.

Improving customer satisfaction is an investment, so you must be ready and committed to pay for it. If you hire staff interpreters, that’s fantastic. If you contract with language service companies for interpreter referrals, that’s also a good thing.

Regardless of how you approach providing interpreters for your patients, be sure to do it right. Work with interpreters that help your business succeed so you can reap the rewards of satisfied customers – getting more customers and five-star online reviews.

3. Comply with Laws and Regulations

Every business wants to comply with laws and regulations. If they are not, it would be tough to continue staying in business. Being subjected to a lawsuit or a government audit will not only drain your bank account, but may also put you out of business.

Laws and Regulations

When it comes to providing language interpreters, particularly in healthcare settings, it’s required by law more often than not. The cost of providing interpreters for your patients is marginal compared to what you would pay to survive an audit or pay out in a legal settlement.

And no, you cannot pass the cost of interpreters to your patients.

Taking this approach, you can categorize interpreter services as a compliance expense.

How much will interpreting services cost us?

Every event requiring interpreting services is unique, including yours.

Let’s discuss the details, so we can provide you with a ballpark estimate.

For most events, we can typically provide a ballpark estimate the same day.

Contact us to get started.


You now have three reasons to provide interpreters for your customers, regardless of whether your business is in healthcare or another industry. Each reason gives you a unique angle and justification for providing such services.

If you are already providing interpreter services, you are a third of the way there! Why not try some of the tactics I outlined in reasons one and two? If you are new to requesting interpreters, here’s an article that will explain how to do it.

It will only benefit your business to increase brand awareness and improve customer satisfaction.

Have more reasons or thoughts to share about this topic?

Post them in the comments.

How to Accommodate Deaf Students through a Referral Agency

Every quarter or semester, colleges and universities have one trend in common. That trend is student enrollment.

Student enrollment trend

Some of the students who enroll may be Deaf or hard of hearing. In order to communicate with those students, you will need the help of professional sign language interpreters.

You already know that you’re required by federal law to provide equal accommodations. The laws are explained in more detail in this article.

It’s possible that your school already employs in-house sign language interpreters, which is great. However, there may be a time where you need to reach out to an interpreter referral agency for assistance.

From my years of experience in working with colleges and universities, I came up with some tips for you to follow.

Here are the tips to accommodate Deaf students through a referral agency.

1. Term Schedule

All schools have class schedules. Those schedules can vary from school to school. Some go by quarter terms, others by semester.

Class Schedule

Regardless of how your classes are spread out over the year, be prepared to provide the following information to the referral agency:

  • Start date and end date of the term
  • Days and times of classes

The referral agency you’re working with will need this information to schedule interpreters.

Why does an agency need to know this information in advance?

So they book a team of interpreters for the entire duration of the term. It helps with consistency and quality of the educational experience.

Interpreters also get booked quickly, so if you can schedule them through the agency for the entire term you will be better off in the long run.

2. Class Names & Types

Is the student taking advanced algebra or a culinary arts class?

This information is helpful to know in advance.

Relay this information to your referral agency so they can pass it on to the interpreters scheduled for the term. Knowing the class names will help interpreters prepare for those sessions in advance.

Student doing algebra

Knowing the class type is also helpful.

For a lecture, a team of two interpreters will almost always be required. For a one hour lab, you may be able to get away with one interpreter.

Here’s why team interpreting is important and necessary.

According to Lydia Callis,

“When interpreting a verbal language into a physical one, ASL interpreters become prone to both physical and mental fatigue. After one hour of interpreting alone, even the best sign language interpreter will be providing a lower quality of service.”

In either case, let the referral agency know so they can accommodate you accordingly.

3. Location

Some schools have only one campus, while others may have multiple campuses in the same city. Be sure you provide the campus address of where you will need interpreter assistance.

Multi-campus college

Go in more detail when it comes to location as well and provide the exact location of the class on campus. For example, the hall name and room number.

It will make it easier for the interpreters to find the student and the classroom.

If you are not specific with the location information, the interpreters may show up late. Or worse, they may not show up at all if they can’t find the location.

4. Student’s Name

There are two important reasons why you should provide the student’s name to your referral agency.

The first reason is that you may have more than one Deaf student at your school. If that’s the case, and you’re arranging interpreters for multiple students, it will be helpful to the referral agency to know each student’s name.

It will make it easier for the referral agency to track and schedule appropriate interpreters for each student.

The second reason is potential conflict of interest. For example, there may be cases where a student doesn’t feel comfortable with a particular interpreter or vice versa.

Conflict of interest

A professional interpreter will always forgo a job if he or she is able to identify a conflict of interest in advance. An example of an interpreter conflict of interest policy can be found here.

5. Degree Type / Program Name

This point relates to the Class Names & Types I explained earlier in the article.

By providing the degree type and program name to the referral agency, the agency can then schedule the most qualified interpreters for the job.

Student with her college degree

It will also help the interpreters to study and ramp up for the course to ensure smooth interpretation.

6. Dress Code

Some classes, for example Psychology 101, may not have a formal dress code. Students can show up being dressed like… students.

A few specialty classes require students to be dressed for the occasion. Specifically, classes that have labs often times require special outfits.

For example, if a Deaf student is taking culinary classes, there might be a lab day where he or she has to prepare food. One must dress like a chef when they are cooking in such environments.

Students in culinary class

This expectation is passed onto the interpreters as well. Communicate this information in advance to the referral agency.

Also, be prepared to provide uniforms for the interpreters at the school’s expense.

7. Parking

Parking is generally not an issue on suburban campuses. However, if your school has a specific parking policy, be sure to communicate that to the referral agency so they can inform the interpreters.

For schools with urban campuses, it gets more complicated. There may not be any school parking on campuses located in downtown areas of a major city.

Provide interpreters with parking instructions

The interpreters will then have to find where to park themselves.

Be prepared to either provide free parking to the interpreters or reimburse them for any parking fees they incur. Such reimbursement can be done through your referral agency.

8. School Access

With the recent increase of violence on college and university campuses, many schools are implementing tighter restrictions for campus access.

If you require all campus visitors to have a pass, be sure to clarify this in advance. Don’t put the interpreters in an awkward spot by not providing them with this information ahead of time.

College campus security

Last thing we all want is for interpreters not following the proper visitor protocol and being detained by campus security.

Some schools may also have key card access to certain areas of the campus, such as the restrooms. Be sure to provide interpreters access to those key cards.

9. Special Instructions

Each interpreter request situation will be unique. Generally, the more details you can provide to your referral agency the better.

This includes any special instructions you may have for the interpreters to follow.

Provide all necessary instructions

Special instructions may include some of the points I’ve already mentioned, such as the dress code, school access policy and parking procedures.

Here’s an example:

Please ask the interpreters to park in Zone A and check in with security. After they receive their visitor badges, they can proceed to Culinary Hall, Room 123 and check in with the instructor.

We also request that the interpreters arrive a few minutes early. If they arrive after the class begins, they may not be able to enter the classroom.

10. Other Considerations

You’ve done your best in putting together all of the information above for your referral agency and are now ready to place your request.

The chances are good that you may have missed something.

Here are a few other considerations I suggest you communicate to your referral agency.

  • What is your school/class policy on service animals? It’s rare, but possible, that an interpreter may have a service dog. We’ve had a case like that before.
Service dog
  • Is any of the class content potentially offensive? All people have their own beliefs. It’s better to clarify any sensitivity in advance, especially those around religion.
Need assistance accommodating Deaf students?

Let’s discuss your specific needs. Contact us.


You already know that you’re required by law to provide equal accommodations to all students. You work with sign language interpreters to accommodate your Deaf students.

On occasion, you may need to work with an interpreter referral agency to meet those accommodations.

You now know the information you need to provide to your referral agency to successfully accommodate your Deaf students.

Please share your thoughts on working with interpreter referral agencies and any questions you may have.

What You Need to Know about Interpreter Pricing

When it comes to buying a service, there should be an effective way to quantify what you are paying for, right?

If there isn’t, the chances are you won’t buy it.

This applies to many services, including language interpreting. In this blog post, I will explain how most language service companies charge for interpreting services, the factors that determine the price, and the differences between working with companies vs. freelance interpreters.

If you are a buyer of interpreting services, this blog post is for you. If you request interpreters in your organization, you can share this article with your organization’s decision makers since it provides valuable insight on pricing structures within our industry.

Before I dive into the details and explain to you interpreter pricing, I’d like to make sure you are not confusing this with translation services. I wrote a separate article on translation pricing and how it works. You can find it here.

Here’s what you need to know about interpreter pricing.

Pricing Models and Structures

Here are the most common ways language service companies and freelance interpreters charge for their services.

1. Per hour

This is perhaps the most common way you will pay for interpreting services. Whether you’re working with a language service company or a freelance interpreter, the chances are you will need an interpreter for at least one hour for any given job.

This applies mostly to in-person interpreting encounters for both spoken and sign languages. Once you request an interpreter, the language service company will arrange one for you for a specific block of time.

The interpreter may not actually interpret for the entire reserved block of time, one hour in this case, but you are still expected to reimburse the interpreter for that time. The reason behind this is opportunity cost. The interpreter is reserved for your job, and therefore, forgoes other opportunities to make money.

In my experience, it is common to see one hour minimum fees in healthcare settings and two hour minimums in business and legal settings.

2. Per day

Full-day or half-day pricing makes sense if the job lasts longer than two hours. There is no set industry standard, but a good rule of thumb is that four hours of services equals a half day and eight hours of service is a full day.

Think bulk discount as well — When you’re quoted a half-day or full-day rate, the chances are that you will be offered a price break compared to paying for the service per hour.

Per-day rates make sense for longer jobs, such as expositions, trade shows and employee/customer training events.

If the job runs longer than scheduled, be sure you pre-negotiate reimbursement for overages, whether in 15-minute or 30-minute increments.

3. Per job

When negotiating a reimbursement for a specific job, you have the ability to control costs. You can basically have an interpreter commit to the job for a specific reimbursement amount agreed upon in advance. The biggest benefit to you is that you know exactly how much to budget for the service.

Of course, per-job pricing tends to be on the higher end of the spectrum compared to per-hour or per-day pricing. Interpreters may be reluctant to accept such terms unless it makes economic sense for them to do so.

Per-job pricing can apply to a visiting delegation from another country, for example. Let’s say the delegation visits for a week. There will be some meetings involved, site seeing and other activities where the interpreter accompanies the delegation for the entire time. Per-job pricing might be more cost-effective in such cases.

4. Per minute

The three models and structures I described so far are suited best for in-person interpreting. In-person interpreting is typically scheduled in advance and there is a definite start time and end time for the job.

But what if you need an interpreter on-demand, right now? You’re better off using telephone interpreting or video-remote interpreting (VRI). Both of those services are available on-demand once you have an account set up with your language service company.

For both telephonic interpreting and VRI, be prepared to pay per minute. The nice thing about paying per minute is that it helps you avoid hourly minimums. Then again, if your call takes longer than a certain number of minutes, an hourly rate might make more financial sense.

Telephonic interpreting is widely used by call centers in many industries, including healthcare, insurance and emergency first responders. VRI is becoming widely adapted in healthcare settings.

5. Minimum price and cancellation fees

Regardless whether you are choosing to request an interpreter for in-person service or over another medium, make sure you understand the terms of service. Specifically, you should be aware of any minimum fees the interpreter charges for his or her service.

Here is a quick table for you to reference about different scenarios and the terms that may apply to them.

Service: In-person interpreting
ScenarioBilling UnitMinimum FeeCancellation Policy
Medical appointmentHour1 hour24 hours
Administrative hearingHour2 hours48 hours
Business meetingHour2 hours48 hours
Employee trainingDay4 to 8 hours24 to 48 hours
Delegation visitJobAs negotiatedAs negotiated
Service: Telephonic & video-remote interpreting
ScenarioBilling UnitMinimum FeeCancellation Policy
Medical appointmentMinute1 minuteNone
Administrative hearingMinute1 minuteNone
911-Emergency phone callMinute1 minuteNone
Insurance claimMinute1 minuteNone

The information above is just for your guidance. Terms may vary depending on the language service company or interpreter you work with. You can read more about why interpreters charge for untimely cancellations here.

6. Mileage, travel and other related expenses

In some cases, an interpreter will have to travel to a job site. While it is possible for the interpreter to write off the mileage associated with the trip during tax preparation, he or she may want to claim that mileage to be reimbursed in advance by you.

The mileage reimbursement rate should equal that of the federal mileage rate set forth by the IRS. As of the date of this article, the rate is 57.5 cents per mile. To get the most recent rate, visit the IRS website for more information.

Other related expenses may also be claimed by the interpreter, including travel time, ferry, parking and toll fees. In some cases, airfare, meals and lodging may also need to be reimbursed.

As always, remember to negotiate such reimbursements in advance with the company or freelance interpreters you are working with.

Factors that Determine the Price

Here are some of the factors that help determine the price you pay for interpreter services.

1. Type of job

Different jobs require different levels of expertise. Medical appointments, legal depositions, business meetings, university classes, and conferences may all require interpreter assistance. All of these settings call for interpreters with specific subject-matter knowledge.

For example, interpreting in conference settings requires a simultaneous interpretation skillset, whereas consecutive interpreting is used in medical appointments.

Due to the sheer nature of different job types that require interpreter assistance, this factor plays a significant role in determining the cost of services.

2. Certification requirements

In addition to the job type, certain clients require interpreters to be certified. This is especially true for court proceedings. Many states have established court interpreter certification programs, where individuals get certified and have to maintain their credentials on an ongoing basis. There are two national healthcare interpreter certifications now as well, CCHI & NBCMI, that are gradually being adopted by healthcare providers across the country.

Because getting certified and maintaining a certification requires a financial commitment from interpreters, expect to pay a premium for their services.

3. Language combination

United States is very diverse when it comes to languages and cultures. The second most spoken language in the U.S. after English is Spanish. Since there are so many Spanish speakers, there’s also an adequate supply of Spanish interpreters.

When you have a language such as Marshallese or Tongan, things change quite a bit, since those languages are not as frequently demanded. Therefore, there are not as many interpreters available for those specific jobs.

As a result, be prepared to pay more for interpreters who specialize in languages of lesser diffusion than those that speak more common languages.

4. Location

There are two points to consider when it comes to location of service. The first is the location itself. Requesting interpreter services in a major metro area such as Portland, Oregon will probably be a lot easier than in a smaller market such as Yakima, Washington.

The second is the interpreter’s location in proximity to the place of service. If the interpreter has to travel for the job, he or she may claim mileage and other related fees, driving the overall cost of services up.

When working with language service companies or freelance interpreters, be sure the interpreter is located close to where you will need his or her services, as this will save you costs.

5. Location

The bigger the volume, the more discount you can potentially get. In other words, the more consistent work opportunities you can offer, the better price you can leverage. If you are planning to make a one-time request for an interpreter, be prepared to pay for it.

If it’s an ongoing commitment, specify this to your language service company or a freelance interpreter and ask for a better price.

Company vs. Freelancer Pricing Comparison

Some clients prefer to work with language service companies, while others prefer to work directly with freelance interpreters. There are also some that work with both. Which is right for you will depend on your service needs.

When comparing prices between the two options, you might assume that working with a freelancer will definitely be more cost-effective. Your assumption may be correct, especially if you plan on working with only one or a handful interpreters at most. You will have the leverage to negotiate a direct reimbursement rate with those interpreters, bypassing the referral benefits of a language service company.

If you work in a larger organization that has a need for many interpreters, working with freelancers may not be the most cost effective way to go for you. Even with the latest interpreter scheduling software, you need to consider the staff time you will need to dedicate in managing scheduling, billing and other related tasks, when working with freelancers.

Working with a language service company helps you unload those tasks and just focus on requesting interpreters for your specific jobs. The language service company handles the scheduling, billing and other tasks related to interpreter services on your behalf.

I created the table below to help you see the benefits each scenario can provide for you.

Benefits Table
BenefitLanguage Service CompanyFreelance InterpreterBoth
Language-specific Cost SavingsYesYesYes
On-demand ServiceYesYesYes
Subject-matter ExpertiseYesYesYes
Dedicated Account ManagementYesYes
Different Geographic LocationsYesYes
Professional Liability Insurance CoverageYesYes
Variety of LanguagesYesYes
Overall Cost SavingsYes
Consistent Billing & Scheduling ProcessYes
What about Free Interpretation Services?

I say this again and again: You get what you pay for. On a rare occasion, you may have a professional interpreter volunteer his or her time for your job. However, don’t expect this to be an ongoing thing. Being a professional interpreter is a career. People who work as professional interpreters get paid accordingly.

Those not familiar with the language services industry oftentimes assume that bilingual individuals are interpreters. This is simply not true. It is true that an interpreter is bilingual, but a bilingual individual is not necessarily an interpreter. You can read more about that topic here.

If you are looking to work with professional interpreters, be prepared to allocate a budget for their services. On very rare occasions, you may get lucky with one that volunteers his or her services at no cost.

How much will interpreting services cost us?

Every event requiring interpreting services is unique, including yours.

Let’s discuss the details, so we can provide you with a ballpark estimate.

For most events, we can typically provide a ballpark estimate the same day. Contact us to get started.


You’ve now learned about pricing for language interpreting services and how it’s determined. Having this knowledge, you are now in a better position to procure and request interpreters from language services companies or working directly with freelancers.

Share your experiences with interpreter pricing and any questions you may have in the comments.

How to Request an Interpreter from a Referral Agency

Do you remember the last time you tried to request an interpreter from a referral agency and didn’t have a good experience?

Or maybe you’ve never requested an interpreter before and are looking to learn about the request process.

If either of these cases is applicable to you, continue reading.

I will explain what you should be looking for in a referral agency when it comes to requesting qualified interpreters for your specific setting, as well as how to request interpreters.

Requesting an interpreter should be easy.

And it can be, right?


Whether you’re looking for a spoken language interpreter or one specializing in American Sign Language, the interpreter referral agency you’re working with must have a clear and consistent process in place to take your request.

Before I get into the details of the request process, there are some things you need to keep in mind prior to requesting an interpreter. The more educated you are about requesting interpreters, the better things will be for your organization and consumers.

Before You Request an Interpreter

If you can do anything before you start requesting interpreters, make sure to do these three things.

1. Set up an account with an interpreter referral agency if you don’t have one already.

Try to be proactive before you find yourself urgently in need of an interpreter and establish a relationship with a referral agency when you have some time for such a task. And believe me, I know that time is valuable since I’m a busy professional myself.

But try to carve out some time and get all set up as a customer with a referral agency you would like to work with.

That way you’re not scrambling last minute and not getting the answers you want when the need for an interpreter does arise.

2. Familiarize yourself with the interpreter request process.

If you’re an existing customer of a referral agency, that’s great!

You should be familiar with how to request an interpreter. If not, read on for the suggested methods.

Also, get in touch with the referral agency and ask to be trained on their request process.

3. Give as much lead time as possible when requesting interpreters.

It may not seem like a big deal to you, but placing your request on a Friday for that weekend event you have coming up is a bit last minute.

Interpreters get booked very quickly for other events and assignments, so the more lead time you can give to the referral agency, the better.

It’s all about planning.

Most agencies prefer you give as much lead time as possible. For example, if you know you will need a team of sign language interpreters in April, it’s a good idea to place your request in January or February at the latest.

In some cases that’s not always possible or realistic, but it will set you up for the best chances of getting the interpreter coverage you need. Request in advance and you will be in good shape!

If you’re a new customer with an urgent request and have never done business with the referral agency you contacted, you should expect a quick response to address your request. However, don’t be surprised if the agency cannot fill your request since most agencies prioritize their referrals for existing customers.

By doing the above three things, you will greatly improve your chances of securing the interpreter you need for your event.

Are You Authorized to Request an Interpreter?

This point seems obvious, but it is worth mentioning anyway. Make sure you’re authorized to place interpreter requests on behalf of your organization.

Because by submitting a request, you’re entering into a contract for services with the referral agency, and the referral agency will then invoice your organization for the services.

If you’re not sure you have the authorization to place interpreter requests, check with your supervisor or manager. Here is more information on how interpreter pricing works.

Interpreter Request Process

Now that you know what you need to do ahead of time, here are the essential methods you can use to request interpreters. Make sure the referral agency you’re working with offers you multiple ways to request interpreters.

It’s always good to have multiple options, since people in your organization will have their own preferences.

At the very minimum, you should be able to call the referral agency you’re working with and place your request by phone. However, if you have to place hundreds of requests per week, this may not be a very efficient way to do it.

From my experience, here are four ways you can request interpreters.

1. Request by Phone

When time is of the essence, this is perhaps the best way to request an interpreter. All you have to do is call the referral agency and place your request.

Use this request method only for urgent requests as the other three options described below are probably more efficient and less time consuming.

2. Request by Fax

The referral agency you’re working with should provide you with an interpreter request form template, like the one found here.

You can then fill out all the necessary encounter information and fax it to the agency.

Alternatively, you can create your own interpreter request form and use that instead.

3. Request by E-mail

Very similar to faxing your request, but instead you’re emailing it. Just make sure you’re emailing confidential information, such as HIPAA PHI, over secure email.

If you have confidential information you need to transmit with your request, you’re better off not using email.

4. Request Online

Many referral agencies have their own interpreter request portals. These portals allow you to place a request securely online using a web browser, such as Internet Explorer, Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox.

This is probably the most convenient way to place requests. Just make sure the portal site you’re using is secure.

There might be additional ways to request interpreters, but the above four are the most common ones from my experience. If you know of other ways, please share them in the comments.

Information to Include with Your Request

Be prepared to provide the following information with your request. The more information and details you can provide, the better.

1. Your Information

The referral agency you’re working with will need to know who they are dealing with. Be prepared to provide your first and last name.

It’s also a good idea to provide your direct telephone number and an email address to ensure smooth communication.

2. Encounter/Event Information

Provide all the details about the event and any other special instructions for interpreters. This will help the referral agency determine the interpreter qualifications needed for your event, as well as how many interpreters you will need.

Other event related information such as the place of service, address, city, state, ZIP, date of service, start & end times are needed as well.

3. Consumer Information

Your organization may need to keep track of the Limited English Proficiency (LEP) consumers receiving interpretive services.

If this is the case, provide that information to the referral agency.

This may include consumer’s name, gender, date of birth and language.

If consumer information is not critical for you to keep track of, you don’t need to provide it.

What Happens After You Place Your Request

You placed your request, now what?

The referral agency will confirm interpreter availability and assignment with you, using your preferred method of communication.

Depending on the urgency of the request, the referral agency will let you know whether they can or cannot fill your request within 24 hours of receiving it.

If the referral agency cannot fill your request, they should offer you an option of when the interpreter will be available.

This way you have an opportunity to reschedule the event around the interpreter’s schedule, which is often difficult to do.

Just remember, to get the interpreter you want and ensure availability, schedule the services with as much lead time as possible.

Additional Resources

If you’re thinking about creating your own internal request process, here are some great resources to help you shape it.

Please note that these resources are not limited to American Sign Language interpretive services. You can apply the same concepts to spoken languages.

Need to Request an Interpreter Now?

Let’s discuss your specific needs. Contact us.


Requesting interpreters from interpreter referral agencies doesn’t have to be a difficult process. As long as you understand what’s involved and what you can do to make it smooth, you will be in good position to secure interpreters for your events.

If you don’t currently have an established relationship with a referral agency and anticipate needing interpreters in the near future, I recommend you set something up now. You should also familiarize yourself with the referral agency’s request process.

Follow these recommendations and you will avoid last minute stress and headaches trying to request an interpreter for your event.

What are your experiences with requesting interpreters from referral agencies?

Please share your thoughts and questions in the comments.

Why Interpreters Charge for Untimely Cancellations

A friend of mine will be getting married next year.

He and his fiancée are currently in the process of putting all the pieces together for the wedding, which includes food & drinks, music, flowers and photography.

After talking to him, what I discovered is that the vendors that provide these services for weddings generally charge a retainer fee in a form of a deposit just to hold the date. If for any reason the wedding is cancelled, the deposit is forfeited.

Let’s take photography for example. A wedding photographer has to start planning for the wedding season, which usually runs from late May to early September here in the Pacific Northwest, at least 6 months in advance.

Since weddings are lengthy events, the photographer usually has to block out an entire weekend for one customer. Since there are only so many weddings you can do during the summer, even one cancellation take its toll on the photographer’s schedule (and pocketbook!)

Why Interpreters Charge for Untimely Cancellations

Booking a wedding photographer is no different than scheduling a language interpreter for a service to be provided on a specific day and time. It takes a lot of time and preparation for the interpreter to commit to specific assignments.

While most interpreting assignments don’t take as long of a commitment as wedding events, the concept is still the same. Just like a photographer, the interpreter reserves his or her time for a specific request, and may have to turn down other requests for the same time slot.

If that request is cancelled on an untimely basis, the interpreter loses the opportunity to make up that revenue elsewhere, as the other requests for that time slot have likely already been filled.

This is the reason why interpreters charge for untimely cancellations – They forgo other assignments to make themselves available for a specific job.

What is an untimely cancellation?

An untimely cancellation is generally defined as a cancellation made by the requester of interpreting services that doesn’t leave the interpreter enough time to find a new assignment in its place.

An untimely cancellation can also be the result of one of the parties receiving the interpreting services not showing up for the assignment, which is also known as a “no show”.

There is no specific industry standard for the amount of time needed when a cancellation would not be considered untimely. In my experience and observation, giving at least 24 to 48 hours is a common practice.

This means that if the assignment is scheduled for noon on Friday, the cancellation has to be made before noon on Thursday for it not to be considered untimely.

Why do untimely cancellations happen?

Untimely cancellations can happen for a variety of reasons.

Perhaps the most common reason is that one of the parties simply forgets to show up to the assignment. If all the relevant parties are not present, the interpreting session cannot take place.

Other cases can include either the requester or the limited-English proficient (LEP) party cancelling the services last minute due to illness or scheduling conflicts.

Whatever the reason may be behind an untimely cancellation, the end result is the same.

The interpreter forgoes other interpreting assignments by reserving the time for the one that was ultimately cancelled.

How to prevent untimely cancellations?

Communication is the most important factor in preventing untimely cancellations.

When initially reserving the interpreter, make sure you have a clear understanding on when the assignment will take place. This includes all dates, start and end times.

At least two days prior to the assignment make sure you remind all parties involved that it is still taking place. And then do another reminder at least 24 hours before to prevent no-shows.

If you do have to cancel, make the cancellation timely so the interpreter has an opportunity to find another assignment to fill the gap in his or her schedule.

There is no way to prevent all untimely cancellations. However, if you communicate and do your best to confirm the services taking place, you can reduce the number of occurrences.

Typical charges for untimely cancellations.

Most interpreters will charge at least a 2-hour minimum fee for untimely cancellations, even if the assignment is scheduled for less than that. The reason behind the 2-hour minimum is to cover the administrative time it takes for the interpreter to block out the time, prepare for the assignment and cover any potential travel cost.

If the assignment is scheduled for more than two hours, it is common for the interpreter to invoice for the entire scheduled block of time in the event of an untimely cancellation.

As you can see, cancelling assignments in a timely manner can help reduce the amount of money you spend on interpreting services. It will also give the interpreter an opportunity to find another assignment for that day and time.

Here is more on interpreter pricing and how it works.

Wrapping it up.

There are many similarities between wedding vendors and interpreters when it comes to untimely cancellations.

Focus on improving your logistics and communication to mitigate untimely cancellations, since they cannot be prevented entirely.

Everyone involved will appreciate your courtesy and you will have more in your budget to spend on interpreting assignments that actually take place.

What are your experiences with untimely cancellations?

Share them in the comments.

Why Work with a Professional Linguist

There will come a time when you will need to communicate with someone who speaks another language, whether verbally or in writing.

You have a friend who speaks another language or a bilingual employee.

You quickly reach out to them to help you facilitate the communication.

But is this really the best practice?

Read on to find out why you should always work with a professional linguists as opposed to bilingual individuals.

Bilingual individuals, translators, interpreters – What’s the difference?

It’s true that all three have one thing in common. They know at least two languages.

Translators and interpreters are bilingual by definition, sometimes specializing in more than two languages. They are also professional linguists.

The same cannot be said for bilingual individuals.

Read on to find out why you should work only with professional translators and interpreters on your projects and how to distinguish them from people who merely speak more than one language.


To better understand why you should work with professional translators and interpreters, you must first know what each one specializes in.

These definitions are directly from Oxford Dictionaries online.

  • Translator (Syllabification: trans·la·tor, Pronunciation: ˈtransˌlādər) – A person who translates from one language into another, especially as a profession.
  • Interpreter (Syllabification: in·ter·pret·er, Pronunciation: inˈtərprədər) – A person who interprets, especially one who translates speech orally.
  • Bilingual (Syllabification: bi·lin·gual, Pronunciation: ˌbīˈliNGɡwəl) – A person fluent in two languages.

Expanding on the definitions above, a translator specializes in written communication, whereas an interpreter focuses on spoken and sign language communication.

Why You Should Work with a Professional Linguist
5 Reasons Why You Should Work with a Professional Linguist

We came up with five reasons why you should work with professional linguists, including translators and interpreters.

1. Quality

This is perhaps the biggest reason why you should work with professional linguists. The level of quality a professional translator or interpreter can deliver to you will be superior to what a bilingual individual can do.

If you are okay with mediocre work, then stick to amateurs. If quality is important to you, work with a professional linguist.

2. Education & Training

One of the things that makes a professional is the level of education and training one has to go through. A professional linguist will typically have at least a bachelor’s degree in linguistics or a similar field.

Continuous education and training is also something translators and interpreters must participate to keep current with the latest trends. Such training and education opportunities are offered by industry associations such as the ATA.

3. Professionalism

Just like doctors and lawyers, translators and interpreters are professionals in their field. Therefore, they should present themselves as professionals and be treated as such.

Of course, there will be a few bad apples in every industry, but for the most part you should expect a professional level of service.

Learn about the 17 attributes that make a good translator.

4. Certification

Many translators and interpreters are certified by accredited institutions such as the ATA and CCHI.

Some projects may also require work to be completed by certified linguists.

Certification provides further proof that the translators and interpreters are capable of performing quality work.

5. Liability

According to the Contract Interpreter Information Center (CIIC), over 93% of all translators and interpreters are freelance contractors. This is a generally acceptable business model in the language services industry.

Essentially, this makes translators and interpreters operate as small businesses. Small businesses should, and in some cases required, to carry liability insurance. This will give you a piece of mind that should something go wrong, there is insurance to cover it.


Your take away from this article is that you should always work with a professional linguist on your projects.

To find a professional linguist near you, check out the searchable directory provided by the ATA.

To make your search easier, contact a language service company with your requirements.