Hello Mr. Green
We have a patient coming in who has requested an asl interpreter (this would be a first for us). Some of the agencies i checked into seem pretty steep and are asking for a minimum commitment of 2 hours. Our eye exams ususally last no longer than 30 minutes. Any suggestions you have would be greatly appreciated.
Hi, Donna. Actually, the two-hour minimum is pretty standard. Without it, interpreters would have a very hard time making a living. You have to consider drive time and prep time. An interpreter usually arrives 5–15 minutes before an assignment— longer if they don’t know the location or the personnel, and it can take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour-and-a-half to get from one job to another (these are just ballpark figures). On a typical day, an interpreter might be able to get to four assignments at the most. If each of those assignments is a two-hour billable, that makes up an eight-hour billable day. However, if each of those jobs actually took two hours, the interpreter might only be able to do three of them. So that’s the issue with the minimum fee.
As far as the cost goes, I know it is expensive. Consider, though, that an agency probably has to spend at least an hour or two in paperwork alone— filling out the paperwork your company may require of vendors, sending and receiving signed contracts, sending out messages to all their interpreters to see who’s available, fielding phone calls and emails from interpreters who are available, taking into consideration the wants or needs of the deaf client, who might say “I love working with these interpreters, I will work with these interpreters, and I won’t work with these interpreters.” Then there’s the time the agency spends getting all the job-related information from you, including things you might not have thought of such as language preference of the deaf client, any dual disabilities (such as Ushers Syndrome, for instance), the name of the medical center, driveway entrance, building number, parking, floor number, room number, contact person, doctor’s name, etc.
Also, consider the time it takes the interpreter to receive requests from agencies asking if they’re available for jobs, checking their calendars, responding to the agency, getting job-related info from the agency (which often includes questions the agency hadn’t thought of, which then entails more correspondence between agency and you and back to the interpreter)… time spent figuring out where the job is and how to get there, time spent after the job possibly case-conferencing with a colleague on how to handle various linguistic or ethical issues that might have arisen, time spent with the agency providing pass-along information such as “you’ll want to take the south entrance because there is more parking there than the north entrance” or “you have to check in at window three” or “the deaf client does not know much sign language.” Then there’s the time spent billing the agency, receiving payments, depositing, accounting, tax preparation, etc.
When it comes right down to it, we’re worth it.*
*I edited this article on January 14, 2015 at 6:05 PM to remove a final paragraph that was not fully relevant to the topic and distracted from the point of the post.