Flamingo Interpreting has been using Zoom for years to provide services remotely. Naturally, when the pandemic started – we began receiving this question more often. Below are some answers to common questions and pitfalls to avoid. Of course, we’re always happy to provide any guidance we can… so don’t hesitate to reach out with questions!

First, list your interpreters as panelists

If you’re not hosting the meeting in webinar mode, it’s best to give a team of interpreters cohost permissions. This way they can handle their own switches independent of the facilitator, allowing you to focus on running the meeting. The biggest hangup we see in meetings is a heavy focus on working with the interpreters. In truth, when left to their own devices – you’ll probably lost sight of their work all together. We work very hard to make the transitions seamless, providing the best results for service users. 

Spotlighting is key

Because Zoom is designed to spotlight the active speaker by audio, it will revert to the interpreter given the audio is coming from their channel. If you’re working with a single Deaf participant, spotlighting them is the key. However, if you have multiple ASL users on the call you can spotlight both the signer and the interpreter lending their voice to the conversation. This way the audience on the call has access to the both the audio and signed portion of their remarks. 

When interpreters have access to cohost permissions, they can handle all of these transitions on their own without your attention.

Establishing breakout rooms

If interpreters are booked for general access purposes and not for a specific client, you can usually assign them each a breakout room. In general, teams work together on content longer than 30 minutes. If you’re planning for longer sessions in breakout rooms, you’ll need to send two interpreters at a time. For anything shorter, you can assign each room a single member of the team. 

Once in the breakout rooms, they’ll continue to interpret like normal. If you’re not sure who to send where, feel free to ask if there is a preference or work in alphabetical order down the number of rooms. Interpreters time their switches based on a multitude of variables but typically plan hours in advance. This means that when the breakout rooms close, there shouldn’t be any confusion surrounding who is actively interpreting on camera. 

Interpreters are great at zoom

Most interpreting teams are incredibly familiar with Zoom and will manage their own services quite easily once permissions are established. You can be confident with teams of qualified interpreters, you can focus on hosting the event and allow them to handle the logistics surrounding services. 

Common questions:

What do we do with videos? Does it matter if they’re captioned? 
  • It’s best to always caption your content and not just for Deaf people. Most of us watch everything on our phones without audio. Many folks with audio processing disorders prefer captions for their ease of access to the pacing of the content. In addition, they’re fantastic for any members of the audience who use English as a second language.
  • Because ASL and English are two different languages, you’ll find many Deaf people who use interpreters prefer the use of an interpreter over captions with many of their colleagues preferring to rely on captions. We believe it’s best practice to keep the interpreter spotlit during videos to lend their interpretation to the audio as well. Zoom provides the ability for participants to watch the video in full screen which takes care of any screen space concerns as well. 
How will the interpreter know when it’s time to come on? 
  • Interpreters are incredibly familiar with working in the digital world, many of us were the first testers of Zoom long before the pandemic arrived. You can trust in hiring qualified interpreters, they’ll be able to time their work in time with your programming. 
If I’m speaking too fast, how will they know? 
  • Of course, we’re human with limitations. However, ASL compresses English quite nicely in many forms. It’s rare you’ll find an ASL interpreter asking you to slow down for that reason. As professionals, we’re trained to keep up. With that in mind, trust that the expert in the room will ask you to clarify. You can focus on providing an excellent experience for your attendees, the interpreter knows where to find you if they need you. 
I can’t see the interpreter, is that normal?
  • Some clients prefer the interpreter to dial in and remain off screen. When working with a single ASL user, you might find this effective. Most of the time, this is to access another platform that may accommodate interpreting over video more efficiently. If you’d prefer it to happen on Zoom, be sure to check in with the attendee for the change. Often they’re the one to request the change if the video quality is lacking within Zoom.
Can both interpreters leave their video on?
  • Sure, but it’s better if they don’t. We often work behind the scenes to support one another in our work. This is how we make really nuanced work seem effortless. When you can’t see both interpreters, you can trust this is due to their teaming efforts and they are both actively working more efficiently “backstage” via another platform.
Should they name themselves “interpreter”? 
  • If you’d prefer, absolutely. At Flamingo, we use our real names. If we are spotlit, there shouldn’t be any confusion or hunting in order to find us. When included in the pinned chat, it’s even easier for people who might be logging in from their phone. If you are concerned about the ability of your attendees, consider renaming the interpreters to ASL_(their name) to bump them to the top of the participants list.
Why do you use your real names? 
  • We’re people first, interpreters second. Clients may recognize our names and realize there are familiar ties (which is quite common). If a client weren’t out in their own community and recognized an interpreter’s name, they’d be safe to leave the event or request a switch without fear of being outed. Along with the basics, it’s easier for chatting. Clients often have interpreter specific feedback or may want to request that interpreter again in the future. “Interpreter” doesn’t leave much to go on should they wish to follow up regarding services. 

With a bit of care and attention to the logistics of your event, you’ll find that interpreters joining your Zoom meeting can be a simple and effective tool in providing access! Of course, that doesn’t mean there won’t be a new update soon that breeds more questions! For up to date inquiries, let us know how we can assist!

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