What do you do in a situation where the sign language interpreters you booked are present and ready to go, but the Deaf attendee has yet to arrive?
Unfortunately, whether it’s sickness, a death in the family, car trouble, traffic, etc, life has a way of disturbing the best of plans (in spite of a paid service hanging in the balance).
If you find yourself in a circumstance where the interpreters you booked are sitting idle and you wonder what your next move is, I offer the following for your consideration.
It goes without saying, but be persistent in contacting the Deaf attendee. This will answer the all-important question, are they simply running behind or are they no longer able to attend?
The answer to this question will assist in shaping your next move.
The Blurry Interim
What do you do in the interim as you seek for confirmation of the Deaf attendee’s ability to participate?
It is important that you decisively manage this interim period to ensure your interests in providing the service and the terms of the agency that arranged them remain aligned. If not managed properly, the challenges that result can make the remainder of your schedule service challenging (we’ll save that for another post).
A few things to assist you in expertly managing this interim period.
- Practitioner waiting period
While it may not be explicitly stated, many agencies that provide sign language interpreting services require their interpreters to observe a specified waiting period. Typically the waiting period is approximately 20 minutes of waiting for each hour of scheduled services.
Make sure that you clearly understand what this policy is and how it works. This is important because it will give you a sense of the amount of time you have to connect with the Deaf attendee to confirm attendance. Here are some additional considerations when booking an interpreter.
It is important to clearly communicate with the interpreters and the agency that arranged them.
It is important that you communicate your intent to have the interpreters remain onsite while you confirm the Deaf attendees ability to attend. First, reach out to the agency that arranged them and alert them to the circumstance and let them know of your desire to have the interpreters wait in the interim.
Secondly, inform the interpreters that you have been in touch with the agency and that you would like them to remain on standby until you are able to determine if the Deaf attendee is attending. Make sure to include an estimated wait time and the location you would like them to remain on standby in your communication.
If not disruptive, I recommend having the sign language interpreters be on standby in the room where the event/meeting is occurring. This will give the interpreters a better understanding of the program and assist them in creating a more informed interpretation when the Deaf attendee arrives.
- Should the interpreters go ahead and interpret anyway?
As it is with all things that are complex, it depends. The decision to ask the interpreters to interpret even though the Deaf attendee is not present is one that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
A couple of questions that may assist when making this determination:
- Are people required to register for your event/meeting in advance?
- Are attendees required to check-in prior to entering your event/meeting?
- Can late attendees get settled with minimal disruption to the program?
If you answered yes to these questions, you likely don’t have to worry about having the sign language interpreters interpret prior to the arrival of the Deaf attendee.
Again, make sure that you are clear and decisive in your management of this interim period. It will assist you in creating the window needed to contact the Deaf attendee and to determine how to move forward.
In the event that you learn that the Deaf attendee is simply running behind and you have effectively managed the interim period, you are in good shape. Though in good shape, take the opportunity to do a couple of things.
Make sure that you communicate the anticipated arrival time of the Deaf attendee to both the agency and the interpreters.
Expiration of practitioners waiting period
Once you have confirmation from the Deaf attendee that they will be present, the practitioner waiting period no longer applies.Sometimes, given the amount of time before the arrival of the Deaf attendee and the nature of the event/meeting, interpreters are requested to do other administrative type tasks while they wait.
Don’t make this mistake. It is a huge no-no. You wouldn’t ask your nurse to cook you a meal because the person delivering lunch to your room is running behind.
Unable to attend
If upon receiving contact from the Deaf attendee they indicate they are no longer able to attend and your event doesn’t allow for folks to register onsite, things get relatively simple.
Contact the agency who arranged for the sign language interpreters and let them know that you will be releasing the interpreters momentarily. Then approach the interpreters and let them know you have be in touch with the Deaf attendee and they are no longer able to attend.
While this is the simplest of the two scenarios, it can bring with it the emotion of paying for a service that is not going to be utilized. Unfortunately, and as shared above, life has a way of disrupting the best of plans. It is important that should there be emotions attached to the onsite cancellation that it not be aimed at the Deaf attendee, interpreters, or the agency arranging the service. It would be unfair in most cases to do so.
At the end
In most of the instances where you will book a sign language interpreter, the Deaf attendee will arrive on time and the interpreting services will go off without a hitch.
However, it is important to be prepared to manage that interim period while confirming the attendance of the Deaf attendee.
To reiterate, make sure to:
Familiarize yourself with the practitioner waiting period.
Over-communicate with the agency and the interpreters on site.
Make an honest determination of the true need to have interpreters interpret if a Deaf person is not present.
Do not transfer the emotion of the need to cancel the interpreters to the Deaf attendee, interpreter, or agency.