(Sight translation by Certified Deaf Interpreter Susan Elizabeth Rangel)

We’ve talked at length before about how to select the right VRI company and what skills a qualified interpreter should possess. However, it is necessary for medical facilities to regularly audit their VRI vendor for compliance even after the contracts have been signed.

The interpreting industry has long established that national certification is necessary to work as a professional interpreter. National certification allows for consumers (hearing and Deaf) to hold interpreters to professional standards, ethics and practices while also allowing for professional consequences if an interpreter violates the code of conduct.

Additionally, several states across the country have passed legislation that requires interpreters to obtain state licenses to practice in their state. These laws were passed to provide extra protections for consumers by legally requiring national certification, documented experience and education while also having legal recourse for consumers. Many of these laws were passed before VRI was as prevalent as it is today, but there are some states that have written into their laws that out of state VRI interpreters must obtain an interpreting license.

Currently there are four states that require VRI interpreters to obtain licensure whether they reside in the state or not: Arizona, Michigan, Missouri and Wisconsin. Idaho just passed a licensure law this year and is currently writing the rules for obtaining licensure and it will take effect in the near future.

A VRI vendor may state  compliance with state laws, but only an audit of their interpreters will truly determine their level of compliance. Interpreters must be compliant in the states listed above or they cannot legally interpret for patients who reside in those four states. Some vendors may route calls to specific state licensed interpreters, or they may not, but this is something language access coordinators should find out. VRI vendors should also have documentation of all current licenses for each of their interpreters. If they cannot provide this information, medical providers are opening themselves up to potential violations and legal consequences if a patient were to ever file a complaint against the interpreter and the VRI vendor for ineffective interpreting services.

Additionally, language access coordinators can confirm an interpreter’s licenses status at any of the four states themselves by reviewing each state’s online database. You can find them here:

Quality and effective language access for Deaf/Hard of Hearing patients is critical for successful medical encounters which begins with careful VRI vendor selection. When selecting a VRI vendor, it’s important to regularly audit the interpreters for licensure compliance and confirm that VRI vendors are following through on state legal requirements.