Frequently Asked Questions

When do I need to book more than one NZSL interpreter?

What should I do if other agencies or professionals are involved in the booking?

What if a NZSL interpreter is not available? 

What if no Deaf people are present at a public event?

How do I ensure Deaf people can contact our service?

When do I need to book more than one NZSL interpreter?

Check if you need to book two (or more) NZSL interpreters if the assignment lasts for more than one hour. Always book two or more NZSL interpreters if the assignment is longer than two hours and the NZSL interpreter cannot take a significant break.

You may need to book two or more NZSL interpreters if your meeting/event lasts for more than one hour and breaks are not possible.

In situations of prolonged and intense communication, NZSL interpreters generally work in a team of two to ensure that concentration is maintained for optimum interpretation and that OOS (Occupational Overuse Syndrome) risks are minimised. For example, meetings that have lots of discussion or information content like workshops, or legal proceedings.

For all-day events or events taking place over several days, you will need to book several (two or more) NZSL interpreters. If so, you will need to plan well in advance to book the number of NZSL interpreters that you require.

When two NZSL interpreters are booked, they will take turns interpreting. This means you will not need to schedule any breaks, keeping disruptions of the meeting/event to a minimum.

The NZSL interpreters will also support each other to improve the accuracy of the interpretation. This is especially important when the assignment is complex due to content, speed of interaction or type of language used by the Deaf person.

What should I do if other agencies or professionals are involved in the booking?

Be clear on who is responsible for booking NZSL interpreters, who will pay for the interpreting service, and make certain everyone involved knows what is happening.

In some situations, it can be confusing to know who will book the interpreter and who is responsible for paying for the service.

Generally, the government agency that has been contacted by the Deaf person, or that is organising an event, should take responsibility for booking the interpreter and informing the Deaf person.

If a Deaf person is referred to your service by another professional, you should check who will book and pay for NZSL interpreter services.

If you book a NZSL interpreter and you are aware that other professionals or agencies have a direct involvement in the meeting or event, you should let them know and discuss who will cover the costs of the NZSL interpreter services.

Some examples of situations where more than one agency is involved are:

  • a Deaf person has the support of an employment consultant from Deaf Aotearoa when attending a job interview
  • the Deaf Mental Health Service is involved with a Deaf person who has a hospital appointment or an appointment with a lawyer
  • a Deaf Aotearoa facilitator is supporting a Deaf person before an appointment with Work and Income
  • a city council is co-hosting a public lecture series with another organisation.
  • Always talk with Deaf people involved with an event or meeting if you have problems booking NZSL interpreters.

What if a NZSL interpreter is not available?

If you have tried to book a NZSL interpreter but no interpreters are available, you could:

Postpone the appointment - make sure that everyone is kept informed of changes in the appointment date and time.

Book interpreters from out of town - in this case, you will need to pay for the interpreter’s travel costs and time in travelling in addition to the fee for interpreting. However, this option avoids having to reschedule the appointment and any other costs involved.

Shorten the time of the meeting or event - this may be appropriate if only one NZSL interpreter can be booked but you need more than one NZSL interpreter.

You could provide a longer break in addition to the short breaks usually required for the interpreters, or you could shorten the entire appointment (particularly if another meeting cannot be booked for a while). Always ask for the Deaf person's permission to do this before making arrangements.

In the case of a public event, consider a change in the programme so that the parts most relevant to the Deaf person are covered first (when the interpreter is available). Again, seek the Deaf person's advice before doing this, so you do not assume what the Deaf person may be interested in seeing.

Use an unqualified interpreter/communicator - only with permission from the Deaf person, and if all other options are not viable.

There are significant risks associated with using unqualified NZSL interpreters. However, if no qualified NZSL interpreters are available and it is impossible to postpone or shorten the assignment, the Deaf person may give permission for a 'communicator' or other person with some degree of fluency in both English and NZSL to act as an ‘interpreter’. In such cases, you should make sure the Deaf person understands what has been said.

Proceed without a NZSL interpreter - only with permission from the Deaf person and if there is no other choice.

In some circumstances, the Deaf person may agree to proceed with a meeting without a NZSL interpreter. You should provide confirmation or written backup of important points, such as the name of a prescription drug or the next appointment time. For group meetings, provide a note-taker or electronic note-taker if the Deaf person is fluent in written English.

Always attempt to book a NZSL interpreter for any further meetings. A meeting without a NZSL interpreter should not be taken as being acceptable practice or precedent for further meetings in the same way.

What if no Deaf people are present at a public event?

Decide in advance what you want to happen if this turns out to be the case. You could ask the NZSL interpreter to carry on interpreting, for example if the event is filmed or livestreamed. Usually for smaller events, the facilitator will ask the audience if any Deaf people are present who wish to make use of the NZSL interpreter. This question will be interpreted. If no-one indicates that they are using the NZSL interpreter, the NZSL interpreter will leave in consultation with the event organiser. A full fee will usually be charged.

How do I ensure Deaf people can contact our service?

Always include email contact details on public information, such as leaflets and websites, as well as telephone numbers. You need to make sure that any contact is responded to in a timely way (such as would be expected when a hearing person makes contact using the telephone).

Ensure staff know about the New Zealand Relay service. This allows text telephone users and ordinary telephone users to communicate via a relay assistant. The relay assistant will type what you say and will read out any typed response, or provide an interpretation visually, using the Video Relay Service/Video Interpreting Service (VRS/VIS). This can all be done via Skype. Bookings can be made in advance. The relay assistant will explain the procedure to you when you first make or receive a relay telephone call.

Deaf people may use a NZSL interpreter to interpret a telephone call for them. If this is the case, the interpreter will be with the Deaf person in the same room and you will hear the interpreter's voice over the telephone.

Find out more:

Next section: Working effectively with NZSL interpreters

Previous section: Who pays for NZSL interpreter services?

A guide to working with NZSL interpreters

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