Team Interpreting Policy
A. Our schedulers are trained to understand the nature of each request and the necessity for teaming is addressed on a case by case basis, however, it is standard practice for Access Services Northwest to assign a team of at least two interpreters for any assignment that is more than one hour in length or involves special needs based on the guidelines of RID (http://www.rid.org). If the assignment is a recurring event, meeting, etc., it will be up to the interpreter to decide if the assignment will continue to require two or more interpreters.
B. There are several reasons that ASNW supports team interpreting, rather than sending individual interpreters to work in one hour increments and replace each other:
- Consistency for the Deaf Consumer: Having several different interpreters over a period of time (for example four interpreters working two hours each for an eight hour day) is quite taxing for a person accessing information from a given source. Simply reading an interpreter for any length of time is tiring. Having a different interpreter every two hours compounds this fatigue, because the consumer has to adjust to interpreting style, interpreter familiarity with the content, and education of the interpreter as to specialized, negotiated vocabulary which has been previously established.
- Availability of Interpreters: If cost is an issue, sometimes service requesters suggest having interpreters work in two hour increments (i.e. for a four hour job), rather than paying a team of interpreters for two hours each. While this may save interpreters’ hourly fees, it increases the cost of coordination, because one assignment is split up into smaller assignments. If an assignment was eight hours in length, rather than finding the optimum team of two interpreters to work the entire day (a total billing of 16 hours), some requesters suggest four interpreters working two hours apiece (a total billing of 8 hours). This will require double the amount of interpreters, and the likelihood of finding available interpreters decreases.
- Repetitive Motion Injury: The incidence of repetitive motion injury (RMI), carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), and tendinitis is high among sign language interpreters. Because of the constant motion involved, working constantly without periodic, scheduled breaks can injure service providers. Repeated injury can result in inability to perform interpretation services, as well as other related physical problems in the neck, shoulders, and back. Working in shifts of 15 to 20 minutes attempts to allow a physical break, thus, greatly improving the quality of the interpretation, while allowing the consumer to have the clearest communication access possible.
- The Concept of Team Interpretation: Team interpretation is not simply defined as two interpreters sharing an assignment. Interpreters work in conjunction with one another as support or “backup” when providing services to a consumer. While some interpretation settings are less technical in nature than others, team interpreters rely on each other to provide missed information, technical vocabulary, assistance in voice interpretation, as well as physical relief. In a team situation, both interpreters are “on” at all times, not just the interpreter who is moving his/her hands.
- NOTE: The quality of interpretation may begin to suffer after 45 minutes of constant interpretation. Substantial breaks must be given to interpreters every 30-40 minutes in order to preserve the service level.
- Expectations: ASNW expects that, other than periodic, breaks, interpreters remain in the interpreting environment for the duration of a team interpreting assignment, regardless of which interpreter is working the last part of the job. Disruptions caused by interpreters leaving during the course of an assignment are unacceptable. If, however, an assignment is completed earlier than expected, interpreters are free to leave the interpreting setting.
C. In researching team interpretation with several freelance interpreters, ASNW has found that it is often difficult to gauge whether or not an assignment that is less than two hours (i.e. 1.5 hours) requires a team of interpreters. There are several variables that come into play which must be considered when trying to provide optimum services to consumers. Because of this “gray area,” ASNW has developed a form which will be used when taking down information about interpreting requests that may indicate whether or not a team interpreter will be required. Negotiation based on the information obtained will then allow ASNW, the interpreter, and the requester to determine how the assignment can most effectively be performed.
If an assignment does not match the information provided during the requesting process and one interpreter has been sent to an assignment that ASNW then determines that team interpreters would have been more appropriate, the interpreter is then given the option of interpreting the full assignment for double the pay, or may leave the assignment after 1/2 the allotted time for regular pay. It is very important that when requesting an interpreter the requester make sure they have considered all logistics when procuring interpreting services. Break times should be spelled out and adhered to.
Team Interpreting Questionnaire
Below are some of the guidelines our trained schedulers consider during the request and fulfillment process:
1. How long is the total interpreting assignment, from start to finish?
2. What kind of interpretation is required (i.e. ASL, Oral, PSE, SEE, Tactile)?
3. Does the content of the assignment contain a great deal of technical vocabulary, acronyms, and/or specific field-related references?
4. Will technical information, outlines, curriculum, presentations, be available for review prior to the interpreting assignment? (Preparation is billed at 1/2 the interpreter’s hourly rate, per hour).
5. Will there be any reading from text during the assignment?
6. Are any breaks scheduled during the course of the assignment, or is it constant/non-stop? Define the amount of break time the interpreter requires.
7. Will there be any media presentations during the assignment (i.e. slides, videotapes that are not captioned, films, or audio media?
8. Is a deaf individual or individuals presenting during the assignment?
9. Will the assignment be videotaped?
10. Does/do the client(s) have any special needs or requirements (i.e. color of clothing, male/female interpreter preference, tunnel vision, etc.)?
11. Will the interpreting assignment be potentially emotional or volatile in nature?