I-2-1-72.Interpreters — Hearing-impaired Claimant

Last Update: 9/28/05 (Transmittal I-2-67)

A. Sign Language Interpreters

When the claimant has a hearing impairment which prevents the claimant from understanding speech at normal conversational level even with a hearing aid, the ALJ must ensure that a qualified sign language interpreter is available to translate at the hearing. (See I-2-6-12, Hearing Procedures — Hearing-impaired Claimant.) As soon as the ALJ or HO staff becomes aware that a claimant has such a hearing impairment, the HO staff should contact the claimant or representative to determine whether the claimant wants to communicate by American Sign Language. HO staff should also inform hearing impaired claimants of the availability of real time reporting if it is in fact, available.


A sign interpreter should only be used if the claimant can communicate with American Sign Language.

B. Real Time Court Reporter

Whenever possible, the ALJ should use real-time court reporting unless the claimant expresses a preference for another method of communication, such as lip reading or communicating with American Sign Language.


If the ALJ believes the claimant is having difficulty lipreading or if real-time court reporting is not understandable, the ALJ must seek a more effective way to communicate with the claimant, such as a written note.

C. Sign Language Interpreter Qualifications

The hearing before an ALJ must be conducted according to the concepts of fairness and due process. The ALJ should avoid utilizing an interpreter brought to the hearing by the claimant. Utilizing a person connected with the claimant questions whether or not the information being provided at the hearing for consideration by the ALJ is accurate. In this instance, the ALJ should decide to use a qualified individual in the community or a qualified employee of SSA or another Federal agency who is acceptable to the claimant.

  • An individual in the community is deemed qualified to act as an interpreter if he or she is:

    1. certified by the National Registry of Interpreters,

    2. certified by a state registry of interpreters, or

    3. his or her name appears on a list of qualified interpreters compiled by the National Association of the Deaf or any State association of the deaf.

  • An employee of SSA or another Federal agency is considered qualified to act as an interpreter if he or she is able to accurately and simultaneously express and receive in sign language.


    HOs should access the Multi-Language Gateway at http://eis.ba.ssa.gov/nes/ to locate an American Sign Language interpreter.