Before the founding of the Registry of interpreters for the Deaf in 1964, sign language interpreting was primarily a volunteer effort. Parents, children, co-workers, and clergy helped as they could to convey information. Rarely did deaf people and the hearing people with whom they are talking- have access to consistent quality interpreting. Confidentiality was also a concern. The Registry's work to make interpreting a profession has made this complex and physically demanding skill more accessible to all people.


Interpreting services have made it possible for deaf people to participate more fully in the political process, such as this public hearing.

Sign Language Associates



Interpreters also "voice" what deaf people are signing. Here an interpreter "voices" for reporters.


Gallaudet University Archives
Gift of Yoon Yee,
Photographer: Yoon Yee


Participating in a session at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, this deaf-blind visitor is using tactile, hand-on-hand, interpreting.

Gallaudet University Archives
Photograph by Virginia McCanley


An interpreter signs the words and conveys the emotion of a song. The presence of interpreters at events such as concerts and plays has made programs more accessible and made hearing people more aware of deaf audience members.

Sign Language Associates


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