ASL Interpreters Among Peers


Much to do has been made about whether sign language interpreters should consider spoken language interpreters partners in the same profession or similarly-titled language workers with vastly different everyday experience. 

GarfieldInterpreter

The “separate-but-equal” argument has been promoted by people on both side of the isle, from Dennis Cokely to the AIIC (click here to read more about the AIIC). I believe there is good reason to view interpreting as a whole profession regardless of some important differences. I’ll come back to this question in a later post. But for now, I’m back to the Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

Basically, I want to know what percent of interpreters nationwide and by state are sign language interpreters. There are two pieces of data. (1) RID membership, which I’m using as a proxy for working interpreters even though I know this is far from true. (2) The total people who identified as a 27-3091, the BLS code for an interpreter or translator. If you look at the numbers below, you can tell just how wonky this approach is. Nationwide, RID members make up about one-third of all reported interpreters and/or translators. Yet in some states, there are more RID members than interpreters/translators!

Here are some plausible explanations for what’s going on. I hope that you will suggest more explanations for the data, and perhaps send better data if you have it. This is a community exercise. We should all know what’s going on in our profession, shouldn’t we?

  1. The BLS data is skewed because not everyone who works as an interpreter is filling out 27-3091 on their IRS paperwork. (That is where the BLS is getting their data, n’est pas?
  2. The RID membership numbers are not entirely working interpreters.
  3. The RID membership numbers represent only a fraction of working ASL interpreters (which fraction, then?)
  4. In many cases, interpreting is so part-time that it’s hard to get accurate data.
  5. Many interpreters aren’t claiming interpreting wages on their taxes.
States RID Members Total Interpreters/Translators (BLS) Percent of Total are RID members
Total 15,617 48050 32.50%
Alabama 174 290 60.00%
Alaska 49 50 98.00%
Arizona 460 1470 31.29%
Arkansas 82 90 91.11%
California 1,762 7860 22.42%
Colorado 343 1200 28.58%
Connecticut 188 280 67.14%
Delaware 36 unk
District of Columbi 147 400 36.75%
Florida 1,064 1930 55.13%
Georgia 420 1410 29.79%
Hawaii 62 190 32.63%
Idaho 83 250 33.20%
Illinois 500 1570 31.85%
Indiana 298 870 34.25%
Iowa 151 420 35.95%
Kansas 88 580 15.17%
Kentucky 273 400 68.25%
Louisiana 150 350 42.86%
Maine 104 150 69.33%
Maryland 565 870 64.94%
Massachusetts 357 1820 19.62%
Michigan 407 690 58.99%
Minnesota 755 1220 61.89%
Mississippi 43 110 39.09%
Missouri 169 680 24.85%
Montana 30 50 60.00%
Nebraska 75 450 16.67%
Nevada 95 310 30.65%
New Hampshire 65 180 36.11%
New Jersey 354 590 60.00%
New Mexico 240 280 85.71%
New York 1,007 3590 28.05%
North Carolina 419 130 322.31%
North Dakota 21 1870 1.12%
Ohio 620 330 187.88%
Oklahoma 106 1030 10.29%
Oregon 280 1470 19.05%
Pennsylvania 546 310 176.13%
Puerto Rico 22 120 18.33%
Rhode Island 34 390 8.72%
South Carolina 96 230 41.74%
South Dakota 81 560 14.46%
Tennessee 237 3860 6.14%
Texas 735 640 114.84%
Utah 206 90 228.89%
Vermont 37 4000 0.93%
Virginia 455 1170 38.89%
Washington 542 110 492.73%
West Virginia 50 1070 4.67%
Wisconsin 371 70 530.00%
Wyoming 14 unk
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