Using Sign Language Interpreters During a Zoom Meeting

Sign language interpreters at a meeting/training/online class can help eliminate communication barriers. If you plan to use an interpreter for a meeting, training, or online class you can maximize the effectiveness by following some helpful tips and etiquette.

Before the Meeting

Sign language does not always have specific signs for specialized or technical words. Providing vocabulary lists, agendas, or handouts to the interpreter prior to a meeting, training, or online class makes for a more successful and accurate interpretation.

Work with the interpreter and/or Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) person to select the most effective communication to use. Ask if they prefer the audio and/or video to be on or off during the Zoom meeting. If possible, send interpreter(s) the Zoom link in advance.

It may also be helpful to meet with them beforehand to make all necessary arrangements. Most of the time, for the DHH person to see each person as they speak, please include audio and have the video on.

General Guidelines for the Meeting, Training or Online Class

Please be mindful when DHH person is on Zoom. Their eye gaze may not be on eye level toward you since they are reading captions, when provided. They may look like they are not paying attention to you.


When using PowerPoint or any shared screen, please give DHH person a bit of time to look at the slides/information and at the interpreters. Please present in a slow, steady pace and check in with them to be sure they are finished with the current page and ready to move on.


There is typically a lag time between a speaker and the interpretation. As a result, responses and questions form the person who is deaf or hard of hearing might be slightly delayed. Interpreters might need to ask for clarification. The speaker and other participants should pause until the interpreter and DHH person finishes speaking/signing.


Speak one at a time in group situations. The interpreter is often slightly behind the conversation and it can be difficult for the DHH person to give input without seeming to interrupt the flow of natural turn taking. Be sensitive to the situation. Choose someone to facilitate the group discussion and monitor that people are speaking one at a time. The speaker and other participants should raise their hand for turn-taking so the DHH person knows who is talking.


The interpreter needs processing time from English to ASL/ASL to English. Time is needed for a person who is deaf or hard of hearing to see who is talking before the comments are interpreted. The speaker and other participants need to check and pause when the interpreter and the DHH person stops signing or voicing. Please note: The interpreter won’t voice right away when the DHH person signs.


Avoid words such as “this” or “that” when referring to something being demonstrated. Instead, identify objects by name.