Using American Sign Language Interpreters to Facilitate Research Among Deaf Adults: Lessons Learned

Kate Sheppard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Background: Health care providers commonly discuss depressive symptoms with clients, enabling earlier intervention. Such discussions rarely occur between providers and Deaf clients. Most culturally Deaf adults experience early-onset hearing loss, self-identify as part of a unique culture, and communicate in the visual language of American Sign Language (ASL). Communication barriers abound, and depression screening instruments may be unreliable. Purpose: To train and use ASL interpreters for a qualitative study describing depressive symptoms among Deaf adults. Method: Training included research versus community interpreting. During data collection, interpreters translated to and from voiced English and ASL. Results: Training eliminated potential problems during data collection. Unexpected issues included participants asking for “my interpreter” and worrying about confidentiality or friendship in a small community. Conclusions: Lessons learned included the value of careful training of interpreters prior to initiating data collection, including resolution of possible role conflicts and ensuring conceptual equivalence in real-time interpreting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)129-134
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Transcultural Nursing
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • culturally Deaf
  • interpreters
  • mental health
  • transcultural health
  • translators

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)


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