Sign language interpreters often offer the primary avenue of access for deaf and hard of hearing students in public schools. More than 80% of all deaf children today are mainstreamed, and few of their teachers sign well enough to provide them with full access. As a result, many K-12 interpreters perform multiple roles beyond interpreting. Yet, very little is known about what they actually do and what factors inform their moment-to-moment decisions. This volume presents the range of activities and responsibilities performed by educational interpreters, and illuminates what they consider when making decisions.
To learn about the roles of K-12 interpreters, author Melissa B. Smith conducted in-depth analyses at three different schools. She learned that in response to what interpreters feel that their deaf students need, many focus on three key areas: 1) visual access, 2) language and learning, and 3) social and academic participation/inclusion. To best serve their deaf students in these contexts, they perform five critical functions: they assess and respond to the needs and abilities of deaf students; they interpret with or without modification as they deem appropriate; they capitalize on available resources; they rely on interactions with teachers and students to inform their choices; and they take on additional responsibilities as the need arises.