Finding an ISL Interpreter

The Irish Sign Language Act 2017 (ISL Act) Section 7 states that when courts and public bodies are fulfilling their obligations under the ISL Act, they must not employ ISL interpreters unless they are accredited by the state-funded accreditation scheme.

The accreditation scheme that meets the ISL Act criteria is called the Register of Irish Sign Language Interpreters (RISLI). RISLI has a public directory of registered ISL interpreters who meet quality standards by holding verified, recognised qualifications. These interpreters are also bound by the RISLI Code of Conduct. This helps ensure neutrality, confidentiality and impartiality.

Professional sign language interpreting services are provided in Ireland by:

  • Freelance interpreters; These are self-employed contractors. The agreement is between the service provider and the interpreter
  • Interpreting agencies; These agencies engage freelance interpreters and/or provide interpreting services directly. The service provider makes an agreement with the agency
  • Referral agency; The Sign Language Interpreting Service (SLIS) provides a referral service for organisations or individuals to find a freelancer interpreter. SLIS is a free service, supported and funded through the Citizens Information Board
  • Irish Remote Interpreting Service (IRIS) is a remote interpreting service provided by Sign Language Interpreting Service

Once an interpreter is identified as available for a specific booking, the service provider/organisation has to interact directly with the interpreter to organise the job, provide further information about requirements, organise billing etc.

The RISLI also offers a range of information to help those that are unfamiliar with working with ISL interpreters. This includes information on when to book an interpreter and tips on working with an interpreter.

Selecting the Right Interpreter

When a Deaf person is attending an appointment, meeting or event, the person organising the event is responsible for contracting the interpreter. The organiser should ask the Deaf person if they have preferred interpreter/s. Because the Deaf community is relatively small, for sensitive issues, the Deaf person may prefer not to use particular interpreters.

Depending on the intensity and length of the interpretation involved two interpreters may be required to allow for breaks.

For some assignments, both a Deaf interpreter and a hearing interpreter will be required. Deaf ISL interpreters are Deaf or hard-of hearing professionals that provide supports to bridge cultural or linguistic barriers within the Deaf community. Deaf interpreters mostly work in tandem with a hearing interpreter providing additional skills such as interpreting for clients:

  • With limited or no English or that have additional needs
  • With ISL dialects unfamiliar to most hearing interpreters, such as the variant used by elderly Deaf women
  • That use a signed language from another country e.g. American Sign Language
  • That use alternative forms of ISL, such as Tactile signing for deafblind people

Deaf interpreters can also translate between written English and ISL, such as for broadcasting or videos. Some people prefer Deaf interpreters as they are native ISL users, whereas most hearing interpreters would have learned ISL as a second language.

It should be noted that hearing children of Deaf adults are also native ISL users. However, in general children should not be used to translate for their parents in place of an ISL interpreter.