Deaf Interpretive Services
College Credit
& Degrees
How long is the Deaf Interpretive Services (DIS) program?
The DIS program is a five-semester program (fall; spring; summer; fall; spring) with sequenced coursework. Most of the DIS classes are offered during the day on the west campus (a few ASL classes are offered in the evenings/weekends). Should a class fill, every opportunity will be given to enroll students as long as requirements and prerequisites have been met and there are enough anticipated Practicum placements in the 2nd year.

Is it important that I take the coursework in the sequence it is offered?
Students who qualify for the DIS program must follow the program sequence as it is noted.  Any changes to the sequence must be discussed with and approved by the DIS Program Manager. Following the sequence in its intended order will also aid in eligibility for Practicum opportunities in the community and educational settings during the 2nd year of the program. 

Do I need to get program approval to take ASL or DIS courses?
All Tri-C students are eligible to register for any ASL course, whether it is for purposes of needing foreign language credit, personal interest, or for the DIS program. Before registering for an ASL course you must meet the pre-requisites, regardless of the reason for enrolling.

DIS courses, however, are reserved for DIS students only, once a student is admitted into the program. Any non-DIS student would need to secure departmental approval for DIS coursework. Please note, DIS 1300 (Interpreting Fundamentals) does not require departmental approval.  It is expected, however, students registering for this course are taking it because they are serious about gaining admission into the DIS program.

Do I need a specific GPA to be eligible for the DIS program?
No specific GPA is required for DIS program entry. Consideration into the program does, however, require a "B" or higher grade in all the program pre-admission requirements ASL 1001, ASL 1010, DIS 1300, ENG 1010 and EDUC 1011. Admission into the DIS program requires a meeting with the DIS Program Manager.

What GPA do I need to stay in the DIS program?
We expect that students will maintain grades according to the highest standards.  The field of interpreting is mentally demanding and will require you to be well prepared and intellectually astute. The achievement of a minimum overall grade point average of 2.00 is necessary for all courses attempted at Cuyahoga Community College.  Course in Special Topics, Independent Research/Study and Cooperative Education may be applied to the General Education and Program Requirements unless otherwise noted. 

If I have already taken ASL classes, or am fluent in sign language could I test out of any classes?
Placement Test Protocol - If you have taken ASL in high school or at another college, or are a CODA (Child of a Deaf Adult) or other individual with ASL experience, an ASL placement assessment is required and will be conducted with one of our faculty to assess ASL fluency, grammar and comprehension levels. The placement assessment will determine whether you will be able to waive or test out of a course and/or to determine which course level is appropriate for you. You are still eligible for transfer credit for ASL courses after a formal review by the college Enrollment Center.

Who do I talk with to substitute or waive a course?
If this is in reference to obtaining transfer credit, your first step would be to submit your transcripts to the Tri-C Enrollment Center for evaluation, along with an admission application to Tri-C. Once all records have been reviewed, you will need to schedule an appointment with a Tri-C counselor by calling 216-987-5200. After evaluation of your courses, the counselor may assist you with paperwork to request substitution or waiver from the DIS program. The paperwork will then be sent to the DIS Program Manager for review.

Keep in mind there is a difference between waiving a course through a Placement Assessment and Credit by Exam. Please discuss which option will be best for your situation when you meet with the faculty for the assessment.

Can DIS be part of a dual major?
DIS can be part of a dual major. Please make an appointment with Counseling at 216-987-5200 to discuss how this may be accomplished, as well as any required coursework for both programs.

Do I have to take extra classes to interpret in the medical or legal fields?
Working in the medical and legal fields is very promising and challenging. Interpreters are expected to garner further knowledge and/or certification in these areas. It is recommended that students enroll in medical/legal terminology or other medical/legal coursework, to become familiar with terms, procedures, etc.

Who are the Program instructors? Are they Deaf or hearing?
The program has both full and part-time faculty, some of whom are hearing and some of whom are Deaf. Each of our instructors is highly qualified in the field and hosts a variety of teaching and practical experiences.

Where can I go in the community to practice signing with people who are Deaf?
To be an effective sign language interpreter, it is necessary that you learn about, understand and immerse yourself within the Deaf community by involving yourself in community activities such as festivals, club activities, religious services, silent dinners, etc.  As Tri-C is made aware of different clubs, socials, meetings, dinners, etc. in the community, announcements will be posted outside instructors' doors, and announced in classes and during ASL Club meetings.  The Internet offers various web sites listing a multitude of community meetings and events.  

Remember: While interacting within the Deaf community, it is paramount that you behave respectfully and appropriately, using your sign language skills to the best of your ability at ALL times. Doing this and maintaining a positive and respectful attitude should easily allow you to be welcomed at community events for the Deaf. Remember you are a visitor in a new culture - be a courteous and respectful "tourist."

I hear that ethics plays a huge role in the interpreting field, what exactly does that mean?
Graduates of the Deaf Interpretive Services program are educated in the compliance of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, two governing laws that emphasize the importance of Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals’ right to accessibility. Students also will learn about the RID Professional Code of Conduct, the ethical guidelines for professional interpreters. Our program is based on integrity, including the honesty, truthfulness and accuracy of one's actions while interpreting the intent of the Deaf person's communication; the concept of consistency of one's actions, values, principles, expectations and outcomes; and the extent that you act according to the values, beliefs and principles you claim to hold.

What type of job can I expect to get once I graduate?
Many of the graduates of Tri-C’s Deaf Interpretive Services program work in a variety of settings, including K-12 schools, colleges and universities, courts, government agencies, political events, hospitals, businesses and corporations, conferences, religious services, social service agencies, nursing homes, religious institutions, video relay services, television, theatres, museums and/or the performing arts. Working in the medical and legal fields is very promising, and interpreters are expected to garner further knowledge and/or certification in these areas.

How much does the field pay?
Salaries vary by location and job, but an expected average starting salary is approximately $25,000 per year or hourly from $15 to $21. Placement rate for this program is currently better than 85 percent.

Since I will be able to apply for a K-12 educational interpreter's license from the State of Ohio, should I try and get a job in a school system immediately after graduation?
Educational interpreting requires high levels of skill in multiple communication systems and American Sign Language (ASL). The effort you put into learning ASL and other manual communication systems while in the DIS program will increase your skill readiness to work in the public school settings.

Once your graduation has been officially posted by Tri-C, the DIS program manager will electronically sign your licensure application, which is completed online through the ODE website:

Why do I have to be fingerprinted before receiving a license from the State of Ohio?
All employees of public school systems in Ohio, and most other states, must pass FBI and/or BCI fingerprinting.

What is the difference between licensure and certification?
Licensure through the State of Ohio requires graduation from an accredited interpreting program and has an application process. Licensure is granted by government and state organizations.

Upon graduation from Tri-C, DIS students will earn eligibility to apply for a license from the State of Ohio to interpret/transliterate in the K-12 public school setting. Should you wish to seek employment outside of Ohio, you will need to inquire with the appropriate state for licensure requirements. Some require skill evaluation and others do not.

Certification is a national exam testing your knowledge and skill. This exam may be earned through the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID), the national interpreting organization.

What is involved with the national certification process?
The DIS program teaches the skills, ethics and professional behaviors required to become a professional interpreter. Graduates leave with a solid foundation upon which to build skills for professional certification, an examination that tests the skills, ethics and professional behaviors of a working interpreter. Graduates of the program will have been prepared to take the knowledge-based portion of the National Interpreter Certification (NIC) exam. Once the student passes the knowledge test, performance-based certification may generally be sought after three- to five-years' experience in the field.

National Interpreter Certification (NIC) is administered through the national organization, Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf ( Please note that as of July 2012, certification candidates must have a bachelor degree in order to begin the certification testing process. At this time, there is no specified field of study for the bachelor degree requirement. 

What are expectations for garnering Practicum hours in the community and school settings, under the guidance of a working interpreter?
Students garnering Practicum hours in the community and education settings are representatives of the DIS program as well as Cuyahoga Community College, and at all times are expected to maintain standards of professionalism such as dressing appropriately, following community/school rules and expectations, and keeping confidentiality, among other expectations. This also includes adhering to the RID Professional Code of Conduct.

In adherence with state accreditation standards, during Practicum I students are expected to observe a minimum of 150 hours of working, professional interpreters in both the school and community settings. During Practicum II, students are expected to quickly take on the role of the interpreter under the guidance of the supervising interpreter. This may require an initial period of observation before the student begins the hands-on interpreting experience. Again, students must garner a minimum of 150 hours of actual interpreting. During the Practicum experience, each student will be monitored and evaluated by the supervising interpreter, as well as the Practicum faculty advisor, during pre-scheduled times.

What is the difference between community and educational interpreting?
Interpreters in the K-12 setting work in classrooms under the auspice of the classroom teacher and the supervision of a principal, special education director and/or lead interpreter.  Community interpreters can be employed by agencies or can work as freelance interpreters garnering interpreting assignments, independently or as a contract employee.  Community interpreting takes place in myriad settings, such as medical, post-secondary, vocational, business and video relay. Both community and educational interpreters uphold the tenets of the RID Code of Professional Conduct.

How long will it take me to become fluent in American Sign Language?
On average, for any foreign language, it is estimated to take approximately 5-7 years to become fluent.
As with any language, the time you put into learning ASL will directly influence language mastery. To be an effective sign language interpreter, in addition to your DIS coursework, it is necessary that you learn about, understand and immerse yourself within the Deaf community, as well as attend professional workshops and conferences.

I hear there is an ASL Club at Tri-C, what does it involve?
The ASL Club typically meets on the last Tuesday afternoon of each month during the fall and spring terms. Officers are elected, workshops are offered and general information is shared. The ASL Club holds bake sales and other fundraising activities to raise monies for the club. For current meeting locations and information, contact the ASL Club Advisor at 216-987-5287.

Can Post Secondary Enrollment Option (PSEO) high school students enroll in ASL and DIS courses?
Many local high school students enroll in ASL classes at Tri-C to satisfy the foreign language requirement of their particular high school. Check with your local high school counselor for the specific requirements.

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