Classroom Interpreting

Parents - What are the rights, role, and responsibilities of the student?

Students who are eligible for an IEP due to deafness or hearing loss have a legal right to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE). Their rights are set forth in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) through Procedural Safeguards that serve as a mechanism to protect and assure the delivery of FAPE to the student. Eligible deaf or hard of hearing students have a right to communication access in school and at school-sponsored extra-curricular activities. They have a right to educational interpreters for communication access and related services as determined by the IEP team. And they have a right to expect their educational interpreter to act as all other professionals on an educational team.

For a more in-depth look at legal rights visit “what does special education law say about educational interpreters?

The role of the student evolves as he/she grows from a more dependent preschooler to a self-determined high schooler. The role of the educational interpreter should “devolve” as the student ages—with responsibility shifting to the student as he/she matures and is more capable of self-advocacy and autonomy. Where an interpreter may have been the point-person who gave the general classroom teacher the scoop on “little Timmy’s” communication needs during the elementary school years, by middle and high school, Tim should be increasingly responsible for communicating directly (even if interpreted) with his classroom teachers. He/she should be able to inform the instructor that he/she is deaf or hard of hearing and to identify the accommodations necessary for him to access what’s going on in the classroom.

All students who are deaf or hard of hearing have a responsibility to manage their own communication access as they progress through school. If an interpreter isn’t interpreting effectively, or if there are problems that consistently impede the student’s access to instruction and communication, the student must advocate appropriately toward resolution. Unfortunately, many schools lack policies or procedures to guide students when they are having problems with their educational interpreters. Younger students may have difficulty realizing that the educational interpreter is not providing good communication access. This can be avoided with good preparation and planning by parents and the student during the development and implementation of the student’s IEP.

Formal policies can provide the necessary structure for students to take their concerns to a designated higher authority who will treat them with respect and guide them toward an appropriate solution. For students to become effective users of educational interpreting services, schools must provide age-appropriate training.