How Social Work aids ASL Interpreters, and vice versa

William Woods ASL

The combination of study in both social work and ASL, whether it’s a bachelors in Interpretation Studies or a Bachelor of Arts in American Sign Language Studies, brings substantial benefits that go two ways. Both American Sign Language Interpreters can use social work skills in their interpreting, and licensed social workers can use American Sign Language in their work. Often, Licensed Social Workers (LSWs), are also Certified Interpreters.

According to the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), “Social workers help individuals, families, and groups restore or enhance their capacity for social functioning, and work to create societal conditions that support communities in need.”

The William Woods University Bachelor in Social Work curriculum includes coursework in interaction and intervention skills. A social worker must be a good communicator, who understands the needs and nuances of different populations.

The NASW Legal Defense Fund paper, Social Workers and Accommodations for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Clients states, “Many social workers are unaware of their responsibilities to accommodate deaf and hard of hearing clients and have not planned in advance how they would respond to a request for treatment by a Deaf or hard of hearing person or how to communicate with necessary family members.”

“Social Workers who provide services to Deaf and hard of hearing clients have an obligation to be informed about Deaf culture and to communicate effectively,” the paper continues.

Dr. Steven Chough has been a lifelong advocate for services for the Deaf, from his career at both Gallaudet University and George Washington University, and into his retirement. He is well known for being the first Deaf person in the United State to receive his Master of Social Work (MSW).

In 1964, Chough wrote, “The difficulty in communication is a paramount problem in any social work service for the Deaf …The importance of communication cannot be overemphasized. Without communication the client-worker relationship cannot be established and help cannot be given.” And over 50 years later, his words remain relevant.