A Brief Introduction to the National Association of the Deaf
Interpreter Assessment and Certification Program

About the NAD evaluation  / State Assessment Coordinators  /  Commonly Asked Questions

Updated 15 October, 1999

The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) Interpreter Assessment and Certification Program, established in 1991, is designed to evaluate and certify qualified candidates to serve as sign language interpreters. Such individuals facilitate communication between deaf and hearing people in a variety of settings, including but not limited to, employment and training, education, health care, community service, and social welfare environments.

Background In 1986, during the biennial national convention of the NAD in Salt Lake City, Utah, membership voted to form a study committee to explore the feasibility of establishing an alternative system to the certification offered by the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID).  In 1988, after an exhaustive review of state-and nationally-recognized interpreter evaluation tools including the RID system, appointed members of the study committee selected the California Association of the Deaf (CAD) Sign Language Assessment system, which was subsequently used by the NAD as its model. The CAD Assessment model had its origins in the Greater Los Angeles Council on Deafness (GLAD) in-house assessment system, which was used to evaluate over 200 interpreters between 1980 and 1984. The California Coalition of Agencies Serving the Deaf (CCASD) in 1993 assumed responsibility for the CAD system.  The NAD Interpreter Assessment and Certification Program operations are centralized at the NAD Headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, and carried out under cooperative agreement with qualified state affiliates.

Assessment Process The NAD Interpreter Assessment as a criterion-referenced test, has stood the test of time and scrutiny as a psychometrically valid and reliable tool for assessment of interpreter skill and knowledge. Candidates wishing to undergo the NAD Assessment must first contact the nearest state affiliate and undergo a pre-screening application process. Candidates who satisfy pre-screening requirements may then be scheduled for assessment.  On the scheduled day and immediately prior to actual assessment, candidates undergo practice/warm-up videotape viewing. The ensuing/actual assessment process is approximately one hour in duration and includes a fifteen- to twenty-minute interview segment focusing on knowledge and ethics of interpreting. The performance segment is about forty five minutes in length, with use of an assessment videotape consisting of six typical interpreting situations ranging from relatively simple English transliteration to more complex ASL interpreting assignments.  Candidates are required to assess the sign communication mode and the register needed to accurately convey the message, and then incorporate these factors as they react to each videotape situation. Candidates are judged on 37 individual factors selected on the basis of relevancy to the extent that the standard measure corresponds to or exemplifies successful performance. Candidates are notified of assessment results shortly thereafter.

Assessment Team Candidates are evaluated by a panel of five trained assessors, who are selected on the basis of their knowledge and involvement in the field of interpreting, English and ASL proficiency, and interpreter skill expectations. A sixth non-scoring assessor serves as the team interpreter. A seventh member serves as back-up in the event of emergency, illness, or unanticipated conflict of interest.   A unique aspect of the NAD Assessment is the ratio of three deaf to two hearing raters for every candidate assessment. Yet another unique feature is the profile/graph that is sent to all candidates who undergo assessment, which provides specifics on how that candidate performed on each of the 37 individual factors.

Assessment Levels There are five assessment levels, Level I (Novice I), Level II (Novice II), Level III (Generalist), Level IV (Advanced), and Level V (Master), which are explained below.   Important Note: Candidates who attain Levels III, IV, and V receive certification (certificate, suitable for framing, and wallet-sized certificate) along with their profile/graph.  Their names will be published in NAD Broadcaster.  Candidates who attain Levels I and II receive the profile/graph sheet, but are not certified as interpreters.

Non-Certified Assessment Levels:

  • Level I (Novice I): The individual who attains this level possesses good voice-to-sign skills but may not know the appropriate sign for everything needed. Also, the individual possesses minimal sign-to-voice skills and may fingerspell more than necessary, demonstrate considerable lag time, and delete considerably in order to keep up.
  • Level II (Novice II): The individual who attains this level possesses good voice-to-sign skills and fingerspells less than those who possess Novice I skills. The individual possesses fair sign-to-voice skills, may lag behind farther than is comfortable, and delete more than is acceptable.
Certified Assessment Levels: ( See end of document for further description.)
  • Level III (Generalist) The individual who attains this level possesses above average voice-to-sign skills, and good sign-to-voice skills, and demonstrates the interpreting skill necessary for some situations.
  • Level IV (Advanced): The individual who attains this level possesses excellent voice-to-sign skills and above average sign-to-voice skills, and demonstrates the interpreting skill necessary for most situations.
  • Level V (Master): The individual who attains this level possesses superior voice-to-sign skills and excellent sign-to-voice skills, and demonstrates the interpreting skill necessary for just about all situations.
Assessment Sites Since its inception, the NAD Interpreter Assessment and Certification Program has expanded to eleven (11) state affiliates: Alabama, Idaho, Minnesota, New Mexico, Nevada, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Washington, and West Virginia. Responsibility for evaluations conducted in the state of California remains with the California Coalition of Agencies Serving the Deaf and Hard of Hearing(CCASDHH).  The NAD Headquarters develops cooperative agreements with qualified state associations and/or state association-designated state agencies for state-based NAD Interpreter Assessment and Certification Program affiliate operations.  Prospective candidates wishing to undergo assessment should contact the NAD state affiliates listed herein to obtain evaluation application, location and schedule specifics:


Alabama: Judith Gilliam, State Assessment Coordinator, Alabama Association of the Deaf;
256/362-1415 TTY; 256/362-1495 FAX; jmgilliam@mcimail.com

Idaho: Janelle Lancaster, State Assessment Coordinator, Idaho Association of the Deaf,
208/735-0046 TTY; 208/10.9.97733-5071 FAX; ajlanc@magiclink.com

Amy Hile, State Assessment Coordinator, Minnesota Association of Deaf Citizens

Mary Max Brown, State Assessment Coordinator, Nevada Association of the Deaf
in care of Norma Chrismon (NormaLea1@aol.com)702/799-2386 TTY; 702/799-2382 FAX; 702-259-6286 FAX;

New Mexico
Jane Knox, State Assessment Coordinator,
New Mexico Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
505/827-7588 TTY; 505/827-7584 V; 505/827-7587 FAX; jank@doh.state.nm.us

North Dakota
Michele Rolewitz, State Assessment Coordinator, North Dakota Association of the Deaf
701/231-7135 TTY; 701/231-8756 FAX; rolewitz@badlands.nodak.edu

South Carolina
John Moore, Executive Director , State Assessment Coordinator, South Carolina Association of the Deaf
803/794-7059 TTY; 803/794-3175 V; 803/796-1133 FAX; SCADeaf@aol.com

South Dakota
Clarke Christianson, State Assessment coordinator, SD Division of Rehabilitation Services
605/773-4577 TTY; 3195 V; 5483 FAX; clarkec@dhs.state.sd.us

G. Leon Curtis, State Assessment Coordinator, Washington State Association of the Deaf
360/753-0699 TTY; 360-902-8000 V; 360/902-0855 FAX; glcurtis@mcimail.com or

West Virginia (cancelled all evaluations for 1999 due to reorganization efforts by the State)
Kara Russell,  West Virginia Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
304/558-2175 TTY/V; 304/558-0026 TTY; 304/558-0851 FAX; krussell@wvddhh.org

Susan Snapp
213/478-8000 TTY/V; 213/550-4205 FAX


1.  How much does it cost?  When are tests administered?  Varies from state to state. See above for contact numbers.

2.  What is the difference between RID and NAD ?
      a) RID has written tests; NAD has oral examinations at the time of the interview.
      b) RID tests are done through videotaping; NAD assessments are done live.
      c) NAD provides a profile indicating specific strengths and weaknesses.
      d) NAD test tapes were developed by members of the deaf community.

3.  How will the NAD/RID test impact everything? Will I be grandfathered in IF I pass?
At this time the NAD/RID Test Development task force is working very hard on this. The NAD/RID Task Force has been having meetings addressing this issue among other things. Until any official action is taken, it might be wise to do all you can to be prepared.

4. How many states recognize NAD interpreter certification?
Other than states listed above, many states have in their laws a generic statement, "any nationally recognized certification."  Some other states specify, RID and/or NAD along with the state's own QA system. Yes, there are states that specifically do not recognize NAD because people have not taken the time to propose changes in their own state legislation.,

5. Does the NAD provide certification for educational or legal interpreting?
No, not at this time.

6. Does the NAD certify deaf people?
The NAD certifies deaf people and Level 5 interpreters as assessors after intensive training and evidence of successful performance of assessment. However, the NAD has not yet gotten into the business of certifying deaf people as interpreters.

7. Does the NAD require certificate maintenance (i.e. CEU)?
Yes. There are options. Renewal dates have just gone into effect: 5 years from issuance date as of September 1, 1997.

Every five years NAD certified interpreters should renew their certificate by:
a)  showing evidence of 700 hours a year of interpreting employment; OR
b)  showing evidence of taking 25 hours a year of workshops related to interpreting; OR,
c)  by taking the test again, especially if they are at level 3 and 4 to get higher rating.

For Level 5 interpreters,
a)  showing evidence of 700 hours a year of interpreting employment applies; and, if the NAD certified interpreter is an instructor,  this would be taken into consideration . Of course, Level 5 interpreters could re-take the test though it wouldn't make too much sense in many cases especially if they have worked 700 hours each year. After 5 years, this would total 3500 hours.

People constantly ask for names of courses/workshops to take. At this point, anything that will assist them in their work. We do not want to specify for fear of pigeonholing --the very fact that they go to a workshop related to interpreting --be it on "composure" or on reading fingerspelling will in itself be educational.

8. How do NAD levels compare with RID?
They don't. To better understand why, you might find the following additional descriptions helpful.

This person demonstrates very little skill on a given task; scattered phrases or concepts may be completed correctly but the person has trouble conveying smoothly all that is voiced or signed.  Misses more than is acceptable, pauses too often; demonstrates jerkiness and lags too far behind.  May fingerspell too much, use conceptually incorrect signs, or demonstrates distracting mannerisms. Not at all ready to interpret.

This person may demonstrate ability to facilitate communication on a basic level but unable to complete task according to generally accepted interpreting standards; may do well in some parts, then do poorly
in other areas.  Exhibits weakness, i.e.: too much deletion, too much fingerspelling; use of conceptually incorrect signs.  May demonstrate reasonably good ability in voice to sign interpreting in straight English interpreting situations but fare poorly in sign to voice situations where reliance on ASL may be necessary. Might be of some assistance in a simple one-on-one situation where only manually coded English would be required.

This person demonstrates good interpreting abilities; skill shown is acceptable in meeting generally accepted interpreter standards.  Occasional words, or phrases may be deleted in order to keep up with speaker or signer, but the expressed concept is accurate.  Performance is generally accurate and consistently so; and someone you would feel reasonably comfortable in most interpreting situations.

This person demonstrates above average skill in any given area.  Performance is consistent and accurate.  Fluency is smooth, with very little deletion, and the viewer has no questions as to the candidate's competency. Should be able to interpret and interpret well in any situation.

Level 5: SUPERIOR PERFORMANCE  (IF NOT A NATIVE USER, THEN COULD ALMOST PASS FOR ONE) This person demonstrates excellent to outstanding ability in any given area.  Performance is practically without flaw and this is the person you would go out of your way to seek to interpret for you.

9. So, NAD certified interpreters are to be paid just as much if not more than RID certified interpreters?
For further specifics on the NAD Interpreter Assessment and Certification Program, contact:
Nancy B. Rarus, Associate Executive Director, Programs
814 Thayer Avenue
Silver Spring, MD 20910- 4500
301/587-1789 TTY
301/587-1788 Voice
301/587-1791 FAX
Internet: NADInterp@NAD.ORG