Office of Research Services - Serving the NIH Community
Division of Amenities and Transportation Services  
Interpreting Services Frequently Asked Questions

Can NIH employees located off Campus (Rockville, Frederick and Baltimore) use the Interpreting Services Contract?

Yes, the census data gathered for contract funding purposes does include these areas.

Will ICs be able to request and utilize interpreters who are not part of Sign Language Associates, Inc. (SLA) permanent staff? In essence, will SLA allow for subcontracting?

SLA does allow for subcontracting, however, they will only hire qualified interpreters. If you have names and phone numbers of interpreters that are recommended, please forward them to the Division of Amenities and Transportation Services (DATS). We would be happy to work with SLA on your needs.

If the vendor is unable to fill an assignment (with any interpreter), will an IC be able to bypass the NIH-Wide contract and procure their own interpreters for any individual assignment?

The vendor, SLA, should not be declining ANY assignments if scheduled in an appropriate amount of time. Depending upon the IC's notice to the vendor (i.e., 5 days or more in advance, day of etc.), we have built in performance measures that state a percentage of requests that must be met. However, if a need were to arise that SLA could not meet, please contact the DATS as soon as possible so that other arrangements can be made. Advance approval by the Project Officer and Contracting Officer must be expressly authorized in order to bypass this NIH-wide contract.

Will my IC be charged directly for utilizing this contract?

For the base year of this five year performance based contract, NIH has decided to fund the contract centrally. This means that through the use of NIH census data, each IC was tapped through the budget offices, and funds were transferred to the DATS to administer and pay for the services for this initial year. At the end of the first year, the Project Officer will meet with NIH Executive Officers and show tracking data and service usage for that time. This information will assist the EOs in determining the future method of funding for this contract.

Return to Top of Page


Will the NIH-wide contract have a provision for IC reimbursement of visitor parking fees that are incurred by sign language interpreters?

We put a lot of thought into this aspect of the contract. We have issued NIH IDs and parking hangers to the SLA interpreters dedicated to the NIH. The hangers are for General Parking. In case of a request to be filled by a subcontractor or other SLA interpreters, we have given SLA one dashboard visitor pass. This is kept at SLA headquarters and used as the need occurs. At this time, there is no provision to reimburse for Visitor parking, and SLA has been informed of this.

Does this contract allow for professional note taking (for D/HH employees attending training classes)?

This falls under the real time captioning (CART) provision of the contract. The real time captioning uses court reporters who use court reporting techniques, which is translated into a format via a laptop or screen. The information is given to the requestor on disk in a suitable format. Although available, this service is extremely expensive and should be used only in extreme necessity. The DATS will work with the requestor to determine if the need for CART is appropriate.

What if I need to change something like the date, time or location of my request?

You may request a change or cancellation to your request by going to the on-line interpreting services request page and selecting "Change". Again, SLA and DATS will receive simultaneous notification of the request. Your change request also places your order in a "Change Pending" mode. Upon confirmation of the change by SLA, the DATS staff will update the system to indicate "Change Confirmed" and email you a confirmation of the change for your records.

What is the difference between on-going and one-time interpreting services requests? When should I use one compared to the other?

The DATS has created these two types of requests to ensure the best possible service. One-time requests are for events that are for one day or less in duration. An example of a one-time event would be a meeting, or one day conference or training. On-going requests are for events scheduled over a period of time that exceeds one day. This selection allows for continuity and assignment accuracy by allowing SLA to schedule the same interpreter(s) for the duration of the event. An example of an on-going request would be for a consumer who has a regularly scheduled staff meeting or on-going requirement for a particular day of the week and time. On-going requests can also be used for training that is scheduled for more than one day. On-going requests can be made for up to a year in advance although we request that they be confirmed every three months and that we be notified of any changes in advance.

Return to Top of Page


What if I lose my email confirmation? Is there another way to check the status of my request?

Yes. At any time, you may review the status of your one-time or on-going Interpreting Services request by accessing the on-line interpreting services request page. Select "Check Status", which then will prompt you to enter the DATS Requestor Tracking Number assigned to your request. Once entered, you will be able to see all pertinent information associated with your request.

If you do not have access to a computer, call the DATS staff for assistance at (301) 402-8180.

Does SLA provide translating service (i.e., Spanish to English)?

No. SLA provides different types of sign language interpreting services for the D/HH only. However, should you require this type of service you may contact the NIH Library Translation Unit at 496-2257, or visit their website (

What should I do if an interpreter is required for an emergency situation after normal working hours?

As defined in the contract, emergency requests differ from "day-of" requests in that they are required after normal business hours, on weekends and Federal holidays. Examples of true emergency situations would be to provide interpreting services for Occupational Medical Services (OMS) meetings, Employee Assistance Program (EAP) meetings, police and ambulance emergencies, and doctor and patient meetings. For these types of after hour emergencies, you should immediately contact SLA's Emergency Services number at 301- 588-0157. You will speak with SLA's Emergency Coordinator who can assist you. An interpreter should arrive within 40 minutes (Please note: the response time (which is a built in performance standard for this type of request) is subject to change after review by the Project Officer).

*It should be stressed that this number should only be used for emergencies that occur after normal business hours. During normal working hours, the DATS staff is available to assist with these situations.

How can I get a copy of the Interpreting Services Consumer Manual?

You may request copies of the manual by contacting the DATS staff on 301- 402-8180(v), 301-435-1908 (TTY), or through email at

It is now 11:00 am, and I forgot about my meeting that is scheduled for today at 2:00 PM. What should I do?

Since this request would be received less than 5 days prior to the start of your event, the DATS can not guarantee that services would be provided. We would suggest that you first call the DATS, and we will call SLA and explain the circumstances. If they can provide services for you, we will ask that you enter the request on the on-line interpreting services request page. Please note that while the DATS and SLA will make every attempt to accommodate last minute requests, in some cases managers may have to reschedule meetings in order to ensure the provision of reasonable accommodations.

Return to Top of Page


How do I evaluate my interpreter's performance?

When the DATS sends interpreting services confirmations to the requesting offices, we always include a file attachment which has our Consumer Feedback Form. This form was designed to ask questions regarding consumer satisfaction for those interpreting services (and interpreters) provided for an event. We ask that the consumers take a few minutes to complete the form and send it back to the address indicated. Copies are available at our web site , there is a copy (page 18) in the Interpreting Services Consumer Manual, or you can contact the DATS at 301-402-8180 (v), 301-435-1908 (TTY), or through email at

I just discovered that my meeting has been changed to a different location, and the meeting is scheduled to start in 20 minutes. How do I let the interpreter know?

We ask that you immediately contact the DATS at 301-402-8180. We will immediately contact SLA and notify them of the change. Of course, we ask that as soon as you learn of any event changes that you notify our office.

Can I request interpreting services directly from SLA?

We ask that all requests for SLA services be made through the DATS. This is essential to ensure that the stated performance standards required for this contract are being met and that the NIH is getting what it pays for. It also assists the DATS in tracking data related to usage (i.e., IC, type of service and number of hours associated).

I have materials that the interpreter should review before the meeting. What should I do with them?

When entering your request, there is a "Special Instructions" space where you can indicate if materials are available for SLA to review prior to the event. If you forget to enter it or the materials become available at a later time, please call the DATS at 301-402-8180 or email us at The DATS and SLA will ensure that the materials are picked-up from your office or give you a fax number (for agendas etc.) where you can send them.

Return to Top of Page


My meeting was supposed to last from 1:00 to 3:00 PM. However, it ran over until 4:00 PM. What do I do?

Please contact the DATS as soon as possible. We will ensure that the records are updated.

However, if your SLA scheduled interpreter has another event immediately after yours, they may not be able to stay until your meeting finishes. That is why it is imperative to request enough time to cover your event in advance.

How do I know how many interpreters to request?

Since this is a performance based contract, we are relying on SLA's expertise to determine the correct amount of interpreters per request. SLA and the DATS will review each request, and depending on the content and length of the assignment, decide the appropriate number of interpreters (this helps avoid fatigue and ensures linguistic accuracy). In some cases there may be more than one consumer and type of service being requested at the same time. All of these are taken into consideration before assigning the interpreter(s).


DATS Contact Information
  Chris Gaines
Project Officer
(301) 402-8180
  Carole Harman
Quality Assurance Specialist
(301) 402-8180
  Pamela Jenkins
Quality Assurance Specialist
(301) 402-8180
  Interpreting Customer Service
(301) 402-8180
Interpreting Services Feedback Form
Interpreting Services Request Form
Interpreting Services Manual
On-Line Interpreting Service Request System
Office of Research Services Office of Research Facilities National Institutes of Health U.S. Department of Health and Human Services