Innovative Interpreting: iPad Technology as a Bridge to services

with Suzanne Ehrlich & Katherine Vance, University of Cincinnati

In many of the other workshops, presenters talked about using telephonic interpretation for providing services for medical appointments or other situations.  Using this type of approach for consumers who use sign language is not feasible.  In the United States, there are video relay services and video remote interpreting but there are barriers.  Regulatory for VRS where participants cannot be in the same room and financial impediments for VRI services.  This pilot project looked at using iPads as a way to bring on-demand interpreting services to a college environment for Deaf and Hard of Hearing students.

Research Looked at:

  • Perception and effective use among college-aged students
  • Video Relay Services/Video Remote interpreting restrictions
  • Improved engagement and faculty perception
  • Mobile technology in education
  • Technology research within the Deaf community and how that might affect social isolation of deaf students.

Pilot Study

Worked with a male student who was hard of hearing so if this didn’t work, the student would still have access
Interpreter was positioned outside of the classroom, but close by.  Then, moved to farther away.  Observer stayed in classroom with the student.  Student then used it for an internship – and interpreter provided services via iPad at remote location.
Evaluated with a combination of pre and post surveys, along with observations and reflections.
Supervisor response to Did the use of the mobile technology change your perception of the student?  Why or why not?
The employee had interned with us before without using the iPad, so I already knew the individual quite well.  Interestingly, people perceived the employee as being more participative in meetings with the iPad.  One change that was noticeable when the employee started using the iPad was that they were more engaged in meetings that were taking place online or over the phone.  It made it easier for them to follow the conversation in a challenging listening environment.”

Emergent Themes

emergent themes of phase I


  • connectivity
  • equipment
  • video
  • audio
  • iPad


  • signing space
  • teaming
  • environmental
  • distractions – providing  services in cubicle so was distracted by others; also on the student side


  • preparation
  • connectedness


  • student
  • professional
  • interpreter


  • Supervisor and student noted positive impact on student’s performance; Student very likely to use iPad in future and to recommend it
  • Disruptions in connectivity was significant  – noticed that location in building had impact on the connections
  • Lack of prep materials and absence of co-interpreter emerged as consistent constraints to provide interpreting services

Phase II consideration

Emergent themes

  • perception
  • engagement
  • language use
  • feasibility and constraints
  • variation in settings


  • Budgetary restrictions
    • equipment
    • grant funding
    • interpreting costs
  • Sample size
  • Consent in English and ASL
  • Access to information
  • Designated space
  • Informal observations changed to more guided observations