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ODHH: 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, deaf-blind 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 an individual that uses sign language and a hearing individual.

Various interpreter specialties

Oral interpreters are trained at pronouncing words clearly. They silently mouth the spoken message for deaf and hard of hearing individuals. Individuals that use oral interpreters must have the ability 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.

Educational interpreters

There are two groups of educational Interpreters:

  • Those who work in pre-school through 12th grade settings,
  • 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. Please see DPI's Educational Interpreters Licenses webpage regarding educational interpreter licensing.

The Wisconsin Education Services Program for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (WESP-DHH) Outreach program works closely with educational interpreters. Visit the WESP-DHH Outreach website for more information.


Last revised April 13, 2023