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An Education Standard Could Mandate Sign Language Interpreters in Schools

In our last article, we outlined how a shortage of professional Sign language interpreters creates problems for students who Sign. Here, we consider why an education standard should mandate more Sign language interpreters in schools. We also explore what some of these mandates might be.

More Sign Language Interpreters in Schools

Other Communication Supports

Some schools may try to make up for the lack of professional interpretation by encouraging students to use other communication supports. However, similar barriers exist for other communication supports that students might use. For example, real-time captioning (RTC), also depends on the availability of trained staff. In addition, digital note-taking, in which key points in a communication are summarized, does not provide enough information for a school setting. Like non-professional interpretation, computerized note-taking provides students with only partial access to their lessons.

Alternatively, a school board with an interpreter shortage might suggest that a student should develop their skills in speechreading. Speechreading is a way students can read the speech of their teachers and peers instead of using Sign Language interpretation. However, this recommendation places responsibility on the student. Under the Information and Communications Standards, the school must consult with the student who needs a communication support to determine which support is most suitable. In other words, a school or school board should make every effort to provide the communication support that is best for each student. According to a position paper from the Canadian Association of the Deaf, Sign language interpretation is the best communication support for many students who are deaf. Therefore, schools and school boards should be able to provide Sign Language interpretation to more students.


An education standard could provide many solutions for the shortage of Sign Language interpreters. A standard could mandate the number of interpreters that should be available for students at a given time. Government could partner with other sectors to develop more education and training programs for interpreters. Campaigns could increase public awareness about the need for interpreters, so that more people would follow this career path. Moreover, a standard could mandate that a certain number of educators should learn to sign. This solution would allow some educators to communicate directly with their signing students. More Sign Language interpreters in schools will ensure that each student learns in the ways best for them.