American Sign Language (ASL) Interpreter Services
This page can help you find out more about ASL interpretation services delivered by the B.C. government. Visit our Supports and Services page for information on other services. You can also contact Provincial Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services.
B.C. Government Supports & Services
Post-Secondary Communication Access Services (PCAS) at BCIT
Post-Secondary Communication Access Services (PCAS) is a province-wide service for Deaf and Hard of Hearing students. PCAS provides information on how to access:
- Speech-to-text services
- Assistive technology
- Other services and supports
WorkBC Employment Services Centres
You can get an interpreter at all WorkBC Employment Services Centres. You may also be able to get up to $5,000 for assistive supports, including interpretive services. You can use these services to take part in:
- Approved Employment Program of BC services
- Job search
- Job start
- Job retention during the first four weeks of employment
Income and disability assistance offices
You can get an ASL interpreter at income and disability assistance offices. Interpreters are available via telephone and, on a case-by-case basis, in person. Interpreters may be available on 24-hour notice. Find out more about applying for income assistance.
Employment and Assistance Appeal Tribunal
Interpreters can attend Employment and Assistance Appeal Tribunal hearings. If you need an interpreter, you can ask for one:
- On your Notice of Appeal form (PDF, 58KB)
- By phone
- By email
Mental Health – Deaf, Hard of Hearing & Deaf-Blind Well Being Program
Contact the Deaf, Hard of Hearing & Deaf-Blind Well Being Program (WBP) if you need an interpreter with experience in mental health. They provide:
- Group and individual therapy
- Mental health and addictions appointments
- Mental Health Community Workshops
The Vancouver Coastal Health Authority manages the WBP.
Medical Interpreting Services (MIS)
Medical Interpreting Services (MIS) is a Provincial Sign Language Interpreter booking service. You can get a qualified Sign Language Interpreter to attend most medical appointments.
The Provincial Health Services Authority provides funding for MIS.
Residential Tenancy dispute resolution hearings
The Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) offers dispute resolution for landlords and tenants. RTB provides accredited American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters for Deaf and Hard of Hearing clients.
If you have to attend court, you can get an interpreter for:
- Provincial and Supreme Court criminal adult and youth cases
- Family cases in provincial court
- Traffic court cases
- Municipal bylaw cases
- Any court, upon court order
RCMP and the Vancouver Police Department
The Western Institute for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (WIDHH) works with the RCMP and the Vancouver Police Department. They provide interpreters for police and legal situations.
Contact the police officer involved in your file to request an interpreter. Interpreters are available for both scheduled appointments and emergency situations.
Contact the WIDHH Community Interpreting Services to learn more:
- Voice: 604 731-9413
- TTY: 778 327-4375
- FaceTime: firstname.lastname@example.org
BC Deaf Sports Federation
Children who take part in community sport and recreation can get interpreting services. The Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture provides this service. Find out if your child meets the criteria and how to apply.
Information for Individuals
English vs. American Sign Language
American Sign Language (ASL) and English are not the same. They are two separate languages with their own grammar and syntax. ASL is a visual language expressed through:
- Hand movements
- Facial expressions
- Body movements
The two most common forms of sign language used in Canada are ASL and Langue des Signes Quebecoise (LSQ).
Closed captioning vs. interpreting
Closed captioning is text on a television, video screen or other visual display. It provides a transcription of the audio part of a program. It sometimes includes descriptions of non-speech elements.
Interpreting is converting a spoken language into another. Interpreting eases communication between individuals who do not share a common language. ASL interpreting uses a certified hearing person fluent in ASL to interpret between a Deaf individual and a hearing person.
Certified vs. registered interpreter
B.C.'s interpreter governing association is the Westcoast Association of Visual Language Interpreters (WAVLI). All professional Sign Language Interpreters must be registered members of WAVLI. Using a registered interpreter provides you with recourse if there was a problem with the interpretation.
Canada's interpreter association is the Canadian Association of Sign Language Interpreters (CASLI). The certified interpreter designation is the highest level of certification achievable in Canada. Certified Interpreters (COI) are often used in legal or high-risk specialized appointments. In these instances, a generalist interpreter may not have the same experience or qualification.
Booking interpreters in small communities
Some interpreters live in small communities or are willing to travel to nearby areas. Use one of the booking agencies (www.wavli.com) to find out if there is an interpreter available.
You may be able to have an interpreter join your meeting through video conferencing or web-based technology. This can be especially useful in smaller communities. Consult with the professional interpreter or agency to find out if this is possible in your area.
Giving notice when booking an interpreter
There are less than 300 registered interpreters in B.C. and thousands of Deaf signing individuals. Try to book an interpreter at least three weeks before your meeting. Interpreter services may not be able to fill short notice requests.
Video Relay Services
Video Relay Services (VRS) enables Deaf or Hard of Hearing people to communicate with anyone they choose. It involves using a video interpreter to connect with voice telephone users via video over the Internet.
You can use VRS with your smartphone, tablet, laptop and computer. The service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. For more information or to register, visit https://srvcanadavrs.ca/en.
Video calling apps
You may be able to use a one-on-one video calling applications (apps) to communicate with an interpreter. These apps establish a connection between two supported devices. Examples of video calling apps are Skype, FaceTime, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Google Duo.
Most video calling apps are free to download and use. Cellular talk time/minutes are not used during these calls. However, they do use data services, such as data plans or wi-fi networks.
Information for Professionals & Service Providers
The goal of any appointment is to have clear and effective communication. To achieve this, you should make every effort to make your services accessible.
If you know sign language, you can work directly with a Deaf or Hard of Hearing client. However, if you or the client struggle to understand each other, reschedule and book an interpreter. If the client asks for an interpreter, provide one.
Being fluent in sign language and having interpreting skills are two separate skill sets. Be cautious using a family member, friend or co-worker to help with communication. Unless the individual is a registered professional, this is not a reliable way of communicating information. Using a registered professional trained in interpreting will ensure the most unbiased interaction. There could be omissions or errors during the interpretation that may put you at risk of liability. Without a registered interpreter, you have no recourse.
Visual language interpreters need specific placement, background and lighting. It is not possible to read signs with a cluttered or glared the background. To prepare, close the blinds in your office and there's enough room beside or behind your chair. The interpreter typically sits or stands beside you, so the deaf individual can see you and the interpreter in a single visual scan. Everyone has difference preferences. It's important to double check with your client before you begin.
Using a language list
If your workplace has a language list, be sure that you are hiring a WAVLI member. Then you'll know the person will be a Registered Sign Language Interpreter (RSLI).
The content on this page was developed in collaboration with Provincial Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services and members of the Deaf community.