Hiring Interpreters for Funerals

  • August 31, 2016


Hi, I’m Rae and I’m the owner of Rose Sign Language Interpreting Company here in Colorado.  What we’re discussing today is funeral interpreting.  This is a request that we get pretty regularly throughout the year and just about every time the same questions and misunderstandings come up.  So, hopefully this video can resolve some of those.

So, first of all I’m not a lawyer.  I work in the field of interpretation so I have a really good idea of how the ADA (the Americans with Disabilities Act), how that applies to a variety of situations and settings.  If you have specific legal questions, I strongly recommend that you get in touch with your company’s legal counsel.  OK?  Alright. 

So, first of all funeral interpreting tends to be a last-minute or short-notice request, however you want to phrase that.  This is fine!  We do this all the time.  We do short-notice requests for a variety of industries, all the time.  In this case, we REALLY get it!  Uh, planning a funeral must be one of the hardest things a person can do and getting all those pieces together is difficult.  We’ll work with you.  We’ll make it work!  We’ll work together, we’ll make this happen.  So, please don’t worry about it being a short-notice request, OK? 

Secondly, uh, as I mentioned the ADA in my intro, you have a legal responsibility under this federal law, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, to provide access.  Um, this is not the family’s responsibility to provide an interpreter.  It’s yours.  You are providing a service to the general public, so that means that it has to be accessible to the general public.  And accessible, again, does not mean that you’ll provide a service, like interpreting, and then bill them for it.  That’s illegal!  This is just the cost of doing business.  OK?  Um, I do recommend that you look up www.ADA.gov so you can see the actual language of the law and educate yourself a little bit.  Um, again, you’re paying, the family is not.  Don’t ask the family to bring a family member who can sign.  First of all, interpreting for a loved-one who has passed away or interpreting for a grieving loved-one… Personally I would say it’s impossible, to do well.  Uh, we are neutral professionals.  Uh, when working with an agency, that’s what you get.  When you’re asking a family member or a friend to provide interpreting services at an event like a funeral, you’re not getting great services.  And it’s not appropriate, it’s not legal to put that responsibility on them.  It’s just a bad idea in many, many, many ways.  So, don’t do it! 

Um, so what do you get when you work with an interpreter?  What happens?  Well, uh, first of all, we’re gonna ask for some prep material (preparation material).  We’ll need to know things like what music is going to be used, any readings.  Um, the religious affiliation.  Um, the family or the deceased, um, because we need to be able to interpret in the most respectful way we possibly can.  As far as music and readings go… the thing that we all love about music is the metaphor and the poetry.  These things are not a cut and dry interpreting process, they’re actually incredibly difficult.  So, we need as much time to prepare an interpretation for those pieces.  Uh, we understand that, again, this is a last-minute situation often and those things might not be available, or even chosen, yet.  We’ll work with you, but whatever IS known, please let US know.  Let us know that you’re going to be reading from Mark or from Ecclesiastes.   Or um, whether you are performing an Orthodox or Reform Jewish service.  Um, we do need to know these things so we can be as respectful as possible of the family and the friends and the deceased. 

Um, we are going to show up a little early: 15-20 minutes early to make sure that we’re going to be set up in a place that’s visually comfortable, but not, um (air quotes) “stealing the show”.  Uh, we’ll probably be up in front and off to the side.  Uh, when the Deaf or Hard of Hearing person or persons arrive, that can change depending on their preference, but typically we’re in the front, off to the side.   Uh, we will interpret.  We will interpret all of the readings, music, prayers, uh, eulogies.  We interpret everything.  We interpret whatever is said and whatever is signed. 

Uh, when the service is over, or when our contracted time with you is over, we just leave.  Um, perhaps the family would like to continue, um, their process at home with a gathering or a sitting at home.  Um, that’s when your responsibility to pay ends and theirs begins.  Once it moves to THEIR house, that’s when they begin to pay, not you.  So, um, once our time with you at your site is over, we leave.  Uh, afterwards, our agency will bill you and then you pay us.  Again, don’t tack these fees onto the family’s fee, that they owe you for the funeral director, for the space, for uh, the cremation, the burial: none of it.  Interpreting services is not their responsibility, it is yours.  OK? 

Um, really, that’s all there is to it.  The moral of the story is that you are responsible to pay and we need as much preparation material as you can get us.  Um, thank you SO much by the way, for all that you do.  Um, funerals are, you’re an important part of our lives.  It’s a… it’s a rite of passage for a lot of us and um the job that you do is not easy and we really appreciate you guys.  So, thanks!  Have a great afternoon and if you have ANY questions, feel free to get in touch with us at www.rosesignlanguage.com or you can call us at: (720)232-8370.  Thanks! (ASL sign/gesture of fond farewell)

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