Sign Language Interpreters

As of December 1, 2010, all sign language interpreters in Wisconsin are required to be licensed by the Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS).

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) gives Deaf, Deafblind or Hard of Hearing individuals the right to a qualified interpreter.  The ADA defines “qualified interpreter” as one who is able to interpret effectively, accurately and impartially both receptively and expressively, using any necessary specialized vocabulary.  It may also help to become familiar with Wisconsin state laws and federal laws regarding sign language interpreters.

Sign language interpreters facilitate communication between a Deaf individual and a hearing individual.


Where can I find more information on Interpreters?

Sign Language Interpreters
Oral Translators

Oral interpreters are trained at pronouncing words clearly.  They silently mouth the spoken message for Deaf and hard of hearing individuals. Oral interpreters require the skill of the consumers to speech read.  Because of this, oral interpreters are typically used by those who were raised orally with speech reading and do not know sign language.


Various Interpreter Specialties

Deaf Interpreters (DI)
Deafblind Interpreters
Legal Interpreters
Mental Health Interpreters (MHI)
Oral Transliterators/ Interpreters
Religious Interpreters
Video Remote Interpreters
Video Relay Service Interpreters


Educational Interpreters

There are two groups of Educational Interpreters:

1) those who work in pre-school through 12th grade settings,

2) those who work at the colleges and universities.

Guidelines or Best Practice are somewhat different for these two professional groups.   This section is about educational interpreters who work with children in K-12 schools.

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) has the legal responsibility to assure that people working in public schools meet at least minimal license requirements.  Educational Interpreters, along with teachers and all other school personnel, must have a license from DPI.  The DPI license for educational interpreters was first established in 1992 requiring 2 years of interpreter preparation at the college level.  These classes include child psychology, ASL and interpreting.

In the 1990’s, Wisconsin was one of few states that required a license for K-12 educational interpreters.  All licenses are good for 5 years and require that classes be taken to continue professional development.  In 1997, DPI added the requirement that educational interpreters must also take and pass the Educational Interpreter Performance Assessment or EIPA.

States vary in the minimal score requirement for licensure to work in a K-12 school.  In Wisconsin, the EIPA 3.0 is considered passing.  In Illinois and Iowa , the EIPA 3.5 is required and in Minnesota the EIPA 4.0 is required for licensure.

The EIPA test schedule for Wisconsin is made public each fall.  Tests are given in 6 areas of the state throughout the school year.


The EIPA is a national test for interpreters working in K-12 schools. It is owned and managed by staff at the Boys Town National Research Hospital: EIPA Diagnostic Center, in Omaha, Nebraska. All scoring for the EIPA is done by staff at the EIPA Diagnostic Center.  This means that scores are valid and reliable throughout the country.  Three trained and qualified people rate each test. There is at least one Deaf person on the team. Scores range from 1-5 points. Four areas that are assessed are: Prosody (use of ASL grammatical features), Sign-to-Voice, Vocabulary and Fingerspelling, and Overall Interpreting Process.  You can find more information about the EIPA at

In recent years the EIPA has added a Written test.  Some states require that this be passed for licensure.  DPI does not require the EIPA Written test but some interpreter preparation programs are adding this as a requirement of completing their program.

The DPI license honors RID certification as one of the 5 credits required for license renewal.   However, the DPI license does not allow RID instead of the EIPA.  RID oversees an assessment of interpreting skills for adult services.  Since the process of interpreting for children in (learning) academic settings is different than the process of interpreting for adults, an Advisory Committee decided that ALL those who work as an educational interpreter in a K-12 school with a DPI license must take the EIPA every 5 years to demonstrate competency.

The RID has reviewed the EIPA for its validity and reliability and now recognizes the EIPA.  Those who take the EIPA and earn a 4.0 or better and pass the EIPA Written test, may apply to RID for certified member status.

Role of the Educational Interpreter

Many questions come up about the Role of the Educational Interpreter.  All those who work in public schools must follow the rules of the school.  Educational interpreters are part of the educational team.  They are responsible for communicating with teachers about the needs of the students.  The DPI has a Bulletin with 16 questions about the role of educational interpreters. These questions are:

  1. What is the role of the educational interpreter?

  2. What duties in addition to interpreting are appropriate for educational interpreters?

  3. What may be expected of educational interpreter regarding tutoring support?

  4. Why should educational interpreters have preparation time?

  5. What are the expectations and responsibilities of the (school) district when providing interpreting service during extra-curricular activities or school sponsored events?

  6. What is meant by the terms transliteration, interpretation, oral translations, real-time captioning and cued speech?

  7. What considerations are important when more than one deaf or hard of hearing student is placed in the same classroom?

  8. Are there unique qualities of an educational interpreter assigned to work with deaf or hard of hearing children in an early childhood (ages 3-5) special education or preschool classroom?

  9. How are a child’s communication needs determined?

  10. Should educational interpreters attend and participate in IEP meetings?

  11. What are guidelines for hiring an interpreter for parents who are deaf or hard of hearing?

  12. How are educational interpreter services written into the IEP?

  13. What are the required qualifications of an educational interpreter?

  14. Educational interpreters often refer to the Interpreter Code of Ethics.  What are they referring to?

  15. Can I (school) hire someone with the Aides license who knows sign language to interpret for a child if it is only for a short time during the day or for young children instead of hiring an educational interpreter?

  16. Is there a resource for school districts when seeking appropriate evaluation tools and professional development?

To see the full document, please go to:  EIPA .

Professional Development

The professional development need of educational interpreters in K-12 settings is broad.  Courses that increase knowledge of academic content are valued.  Courses in Spanish, advanced math and science, reading instruction, computers, and health are all beneficial.  Other courses in child development and those that increase the interpreter’s skills when working with a child with an additional disability are encouraged.  These may include courses on Autism, cognitive development, behavior patterns, visual impairments, etc.

The EIPA is a diagnostic test that provides a lot of feedback to the individual interpreter.  Each report outlines areas of interpreting skill and areas where they need to improve.  These reports can be used to design a plan for skill development.  Each year workshops supporting skill development for educational interpreters are made available through the Outreach Program.   For more information, please check:


The director for the Wisconsin Educational Services Program-Deaf and Hard of Hearing is Marcy Dicker.

Last Revised: September 1, 2016