Disability Resources for Students

Interpreting and Real-Time Captioning

General Information

What is interpreting?

Trained professionals, called interpreters, translate between a spoken and a signed language. While American Sign Language (ASL) is the prevalent signed language in the United States, there are other types of signed language.

What is real-time captioning?

Trained professionals, called captioners, create a transcript of information that is presented verbally in class. They use a court stenographer’s device to type using shorthand. This device is connected to a laptop computer where the verbal information presented is displayed as text for the student to read. There is a slight (a few seconds) delay before the information appears on the computer screen. In order for the student to read the screen, they and the captioner will need to sit next to each other in the classroom.

What are things that an interpreter or captioner will not do?

  • Add or delete information.
  • Explain, define, or repeat information.
  • Take responsibility for the student’s absences or classroom performance.
  • Provide service during tests (unless requested in advance).
  • Participate in class discussions or activities.
  • Advise people on the subject of deafness.
  • Talk about court reporting equipment or the profession during class time.

What training does an interpreter receive?

An interpreter is vetted, trained in conveying content accurately, nationally certified, and is expected to follow the ethics of the profession and the UW’s expectations of ethics. The interpreter will be in the front of the room, positioning themselves to be in the best line of sight for the student.

What training does a captioner receive?

A captioner is vetted, trained in conveying content accurately, and is expected to follow the ethics of the profession and the UW’s expectations of ethics. Some captioners are trained stenographers (court reporters), holding either a state or national certification.

Who is responsible for finding and paying for an interpreter/captioner?

If the this is directly related to an classroom accommodation request, UW will find, and pay for, costs associated with providing interpreters and captioners.

How long does it take to find an interpreter/captioner?

DRS needs at least 10 days to find an interpreter/captioner, for a single event request. DRS needs at least 5 weeks for class request.

How far in advance does DRS need to know about an interpreting and real-time captioning request?

DRS needs at least 10 days to find an interpreter/captioner, for a single event request. DRS needs at least 5 weeks for class request.


How do I get it? What do I have to do?

  • Register with DRS.
  • Enroll in classes during priority registration/registration period I.
  • Request your accommodations in myDRS.
  • Respond promptly to any correspondence you receive from DRS. Notify DRS of any concerns.

What if I request late or change my classes?

All requests will be processed in the order received. Submitting a late request will take longer to fulfill, and requests may take longer than the time-frame outlined in the Services Timeline Request. Changes to accommodation requests should be made in myDRS as soon as possible.

What if my class does not have an instructor assigned?

While DRS does their own outreach, sometimes students can connect more quickly and effectively by reaching out personally to their adviser, program coordinator, or department chair to check on the status of assigned instructors.


Do I need to do anything differently when a captioner is present?

  • Remember that the captioner is recording information verbatim. It is very difficult to caption if the speaker is talking too fast, mumbles, or if several people speak at once. Please ask speakers to speak at a normal rate and not to speak at the same time.
  • If the speaker plans to read material in the class, it will be beneficial if the student is given the material prior to the beginning of the class so that he/she can follow along with what is being read.
  • The captioner’s software enables the student with little or no speech to type a question, raise their hand and have the captioner ask the question. This allows the student to fully participate in the class.
  • Please remember, the captioner cannot write on the machine and talk at the same time. Avoid speaking directly to the captioner or asking questions of the captioner during class time.

The information was modified from a handout created by Lundy Associates.

Do I need to do anything differently when an interpreter is present?

  • When using an interpreter to speak with a person who is deaf, remember to speak directly to the deaf person, not to the interpreter. The interpreter is not part of the conversation and is not permitted to voice personal opinions or enter into the conversation.
  • Face the person who is deaf and speak to him/her in a normal manner. Do not make comments to the interpreter that you do not intend to have interpreted to the deaf person, even if the deaf person’s back is turned.
  • Remember that the interpreter is a few words behind the speaker. Please give the interpreter time to finish before you ask questions so that the deaf person may also ask questions or join in the discussion.
  • Whenever possible, please permit only one person to speak at a time during group discussions, as it is very difficult for an interpreter when several people are speaking at once. It may be beneficial to ask the class to allow a brief pause between speakers to permit the interpreter to finish the previous statement before the next speaker begins.
  • In classes in which there is a great deal of classroom participation, it is helpful if the students in the class raise their hands and wait to be called upon before speaking. This allows the interpreter and the deaf student time to identify who is speaking, before proceeding with the interpreted statement.
  • Speak clearly and in a normal tone when using an interpreter. Do not rush through a lecture. If the interpreter does not understand, or did not hear what was said, he or she may ask the speaker to slow down or restate the information given.
  • Allow time to study handouts, charts or overheads. A person who is deaf cannot watch the interpreter and study written information at the same time. If at all possible, please provide the student with these materials in advance so they may be reviewed ahead of time.
  • Be sure that the interpreter has good lighting. If the interpreting situation requires darkening the room to view slides, videotapes, or films, auxiliary lighting may be necessary so that the deaf person can see the interpreter.

This information is the result of a joint effort between the Seattle Community College Regional Education Program for Deaf Students and the University of Washington.

What if I am concerned that an interpreter/captioner will distract the class?

Some students may have not been in a class where there was an interpreter/captioner. However, the novelty will wear off soon and students will focus on material they are going to be tested on.

Can I get a copy of the transcript created by the real-time captioner?

The instructor owns the content of the class. However, the labor of listening and writing a transcript belongs to the real-time captioner. The instructor may be interested in a transcript of class for themselves, or to share with the class. The captioner is legally allowed to request payment, but may also choose to share with the instructor for free. The professor is allowed to purchase the transcript from the captioner, then share it with the class.

What if there are required activities outside of class?

The student is responsible for requesting captioners for class, as well as for class-related activities such as field trips, meetings with the instructor, and group meetings. Please provide advance notice of such meetings or requirements to dhhreq@uw.edu so the request for a captioner can be made.

What if a class is canceled?

Ideally, the instructor and interpreter/captioner will establish a professional relationship early in the term. It is strongly recommended that the interpreter/captioner is added to the class list so they are notified of cancellations. Many times, the student will notify the interpreter/captioner about canceled class.

What happens when the student is absent?

The interpreter/captioner will wait for 20 mins per hour of class time, then leave. The student will not be provided a transcript if they do not show to class. Concerns around this accommodation will be worked out between the student and DRS. Any grade concerns will be worked out between the student and instructor.


CART Services for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing People (7 mins, Audio Described)

Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf