What Makes it Complex?

American Sign Language is rapidly gaining recognition across the country, with many public and private institutions making extra effort to hire ASL interpreters for events and day-to-day operations. To ensure a high quality of interpretation, ASL certification is renowned for being a highly complex and bureaucratic process, with requirements for ASL interpreters varying heavily depending on the state. Michigan is no different, as ASL certification is broken down into several levels, with each level having its own list of industries that interpreters are allowed to serve. To ensure that your organization is working with an appropriately skilled interpreter, review these levels before hiring someone for the job.

Base Levels

A Michigan ASL interpretation certificate comes in three distinct levels. Each of these levels covers different industries, with each category denoting an increase in the complexity of interpretation for a given industry. Do note that none of these levels allow for an interpreter to work in a primary-school setting, as Non-Post Secondary education is covered with its own levels.

Level 1

The entry level to ASL interpretation, this certification covers more general events that are less likely to use highly technical verbiage. This level is more defined by what it is not allowed to cover, as any interpretation that touches on the topics of primary education, health, mental health, legal, employment, finance, and government requires a higher certification level. The largest use for this category is post-secondary education, such as GED training classes and college events. Interpreters are also allowed to help with workshops, trainings, and general workplace meetings, though more specific job related meetings like interviews and labor disputes fall into the realm of Level 2.

Level 2

A level 2 interpreter can expect to work in a wider range of industries and utilize more technical verbiage during sessions. INterpreters at this level can become involved in government functions, such as political rallies and public presentations. They can also be trusted to work with individuals to solve financial issues and can be in the room to hear confidential information regarding a person’s finances. Many Level 2 interpreters find work in the private sector, interpreting in a wide range of company events, such as interviews, staff meetings, and employee grievance processes.

Additionally, interpreters at this level may start working in the medical field, providing interpretation for emergency rooms, counseling sessions, and urgent care facilities, for example. However, the interpreter must first secure a Medical/Mental Health Endorsement through LARA, which usually requires completion of at least two mental health educational workshops every two years and a high proficiency in medical terminology.

Level 3

Almost all of Level 3’s requirements are dedicated to the legal industry, meaning that any ASL interpreter that wants to work with a law firm or court must secure this certification. Additional services that require this level include Child Protective Services and emergency broadcasts. Unlike earlier levels, this certification requires that an ASL interpreter have at least four years of experience in order to receive. As with Level 2, it requires a Medical/Mental Health Endorsement in order to work in the medical field.

Educational Levels

For ASL Interpreters seeking to work with primary students, Michigan has separate certifications to ensure quality. This certification is divided into two broad categories: Pre-K through Grade 6, and Grade 7 through Age 26. The main certification that separates these qualifications from the standard levels is the Educational Interpreter Performance Assessment (EIPA), which is designed to assess an interpreter’s ability to work within a school or other educational environment.

Pre-K through Grade 6

This certification allows an ASL interpreter to work with elementary schools for most common events ranging from class trips to parent teacher conferences. This certification is usually granted after passing the EIPA with a score of at least 4.0. Additionally, those certified at this level may freely interpret for the Grade 7 through Age 26 level as well.

Grade 7 through Age 26

While Pre-K through Grade 6 certification is fairly simple to understand, Grade 7 through Age 26 certification has a few more layers, with many of its requirements being more open. For example, while having a score of 4.0 on the EIPA will result in certification, applicants can substitute with either BEI 2 certification or another recognized certification listed by the State of Michigan. Because of this floating requirement, though, this certification level is much more limited, and does not allow the interpreter to work with Pre-K through Grade 6.

DeafBlind Endorsement

An important piece of criteria to note is that no interpreter may work with a DeafBlind person without DeafBlind endorsement, regardless of level. A DeafBlind endorsement can be received by filing an application through the Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) department, and requires completion of educational workshops in the topics of working with a DeafBlind client.