Federal and state laws on interpreting

The federal law entitled the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as well as the Minnesota State Human Rights Act require that individuals with disabilities be given effective access to employment, government services and medical, mental health, legal and recreational services. The laws entitle individuals with a disability to have access to these services. The type of access will depend upon the person's disability. A person who is hard of hearing may prefer writing notes or utilizing Computer Assisted Real Time Captioning (CART) services. An individual who is deaf may request a sign language interpreter. The service provider should ask the person with the disability what kind of accommodation they need. 

Regarding sign language interpreters, the ADA defines a qualified interpreter as "an interpreter who is able to interpret effectively, accurately and impartially both receptively and expressively, using any necessary specialized vocabulary." It is vital that the interpreter be qualified for the situation they are interpreting.

A certified interpreter is one who has minimally met the standards set forth by a certifying body. This includes knowledge of the code of ethics and meeting a standard on a performance skills test. Certified interpreters are bound by the code of ethics of their certifying national organization. The organization also has grievance procedures that allow consumers to address violations of their respective code of ethics.

Interpreting in the Courts: The Minnesota Supreme Court has established specific requirements for court interpreters. Before hiring an interpreter for the court system, contact the Minnesota Court Interpreter Program at 651-297-5300 or email cip@courts.state.mn.us

Contact your local Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services - regional office for assistance.

Legal and accessibility links

  • Department of Justice Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • Great Lakes ADA Center - The Great Lakes ADA Center provides technical assistance to employers and other providers wanting to check on their obligation to provide interpreter services.
  • Minnesota Court Interpreter Program - This link takes you to Web page that describes requirements that interpreters must meet to work in the court system in Minnesota. It also includes the statewide roster of court interpreters for the state of Minnesota. For further information or questions about the requirements of court interpreters please contact cip@courts.state.mn.us.
  • Minnesota Department of Human Rights 
  • Minnesota Statutes 2001 - 122A.31 American sign language/English interpreters -This link takes you to the law that specifies requirements that interpreters must meet to work in pre K -12 school districts in Minnesota. For further information about the law, please contact mary.cashman-bakken@state.mn.us.
  • National Association of the Deaf's (NAD) Information Center - NAD provides information to deaf/deafblind/hard of hearing consumers on their legal rights.
  • Minnesota Courts System Online Help Center - this link takes you to information about how some of the legal-related tutorials are now being captioned.

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