Code of Ethics

The SLIANZ Code of Ethics and Code of Conduct were revised and approved in July 2012. A summary of the Core Values and General Principles is given here.

Core Values

The guiding principles in the Code of Ethics are based on key values that both interpreters and consumers agree are necessary to provide a quality service. These values are especially significant to the Deaf community, many of whom use interpreting services frequently in many domains of everyday life. These core values are:

Respect: for consumers and other professionals, including being responsive to the diversity of language styles and preferences of Deaf consumers.

Integrity: honesty, consistency and trustworthiness in professional and personal dealings with consumers.

Non-discrimination: fair, equal treatment of all consumers and a non-judgmental attitude in providing service.

SLIANZ also acknowledges that its purpose of upholding ethical, high quality interpreting practice accords with the objective of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (2008) to promote Deaf people’s equitable access in society.

General Principles

1. Professional Conduct

Interpreters uphold the standards of conduct, the aims and reputation of SLIANZ. They conduct themselves in a responsible and professional manner. They show respect towards all parties involved in an interpreting assignment. They respect and support their colleagues.

Aim: To maintain trust in interpreters as professionals and to maintain the reputation of SLIANZ; to support and further the interests of the profession and their colleagues, beyond their individual interest.

Explanation: Interpreters accept responsibility for their work and conduct; they are committed to providing quality service in a respectful and culturally sensitive manner. They are reliable. Interpreters deal honestly and fairly with other parties and colleagues, and are responsive to their needs and language preferences. They are transparent and honest in all business practices. They offer colleagues reasonable assistance as required.

2. Confidentiality

Interpreters maintain confidentiality and do not disclose information acquired during the course of their work, or details about specific assignments.

Aim: To protect the privacy of parties communicating through an interpreter, and to maintain the trust of consumers in the integrity of professional interpreters.

Explanation: Because interpreters hold a position of trust and deal with personal information, they are bound by strict rules of confidentiality.

3. Competence

Interpreters only undertake work they can reasonably expect to perform competently and for which they are professionally qualified through training and credentials.

Aim: to ensure that effective interpreting is provided and that professional standards are upheld.

Explanation: In order to practise, interpreters need to have adequate levels of expertise. Those who work with interpreters are entitled to expect that the interpreters are appropriately qualified. Interpreters always represent their credentials honestly.

4. Accuracy

Interpreters remain faithful to the meaning of the message at all times and, to the best of their ability, interpret the message in the manner in which it was intended.

Aim: Consumers communicating through an interpreter will be able to exchange information exactly as they intend, without distortion of meaning.

Explanation: Accuracy means complete and undistorted transfer of the message. The content and the intent of the original message are preserved in the interpretation.

5. Impartiality

Interpreters observe impartiality during any interpreted encounter and remain unbiased throughout the communication exchanged between the consumers.

Aim: To enable both parties to trust that the interpreter will be a neutral facilitator of their communication, staying within defined role boundaries.

Explanation: The purpose of interpreting is to allow parties who do not share a common language to communicate effectively with each other, retaining the full intent of the communication conveyed. Interpreters are not responsible for what the parties communicate, only for complete and accurate transfer of the message. Interpreters do not allow bias factors to influence their performance; likewise they do not soften, strengthen or alter the messages conveyed.

6. Clarity of Role Boundaries

Interpreters maintain clear boundaries between their own task (as facilitators of communication through message transfer) and the responsibilities of other parties in a situation.

Aim: To ensure that the interpreting task is not compromised by other tasks.

Explanation: The focus of interpreters is on message transfer. Interpreters do not, in the course of their interpreting duties, engage in other tasks such as advocacy, guidance or advice. Where interpreters are also employed to undertake other tasks, they will not engage in these tasks while interpreting. Interpreters employed to undertake multiple tasks will clearly indicate when they move between interpreting and their other role(s). Interpreters should explain their role to consumers in line with this Code.

7. Professional Development

Interpreters continue to develop their professional knowledge and skills.

Aim: To maintain and improve standards of service.

Explanation: Interpreters commit themselves to lifelong professional learning, recognising that individuals, skills and practices change over time. Interpreters continually upgrade their language and interpreting skills and their understanding of interpreting contexts. Participating in professional development helps to develop and maintain a critical perspective on one’s professional competence and practice.

Code of Conduct

The Code of Conduct gives guidance to interpreters on how to apply the intent of the Code of Ethics. To ensure consistency across the profession, the Code of Conduct sets out the kind of conduct that is generally expected of interpreters.

Download the complete SLIANZ Code of Ethics and Code of Conduct in PDF format.

In some contexts, practice norms for sign language interpreters may differ from these general guidelines in some contexts, where specific protocols, duty of care, or the overall goals of participants must be considered in the way that an interpreter functions and relates to others (e.g. educational, mental health, church, marae).

It also has to be acknowledged that the NZSL interpreting workforce is still small and cannot always meet demand in every locality. The points in this Code of Conduct describe an ideal model of practice that may not be achievable in every instance. For example, interpreters may at times be called on to interpret for family and friends, and they may have to undertake work that is potentially beyond their current competency level. It is nevertheless important to set out the ideal here. Above all, interpreters should use their professional judgment to conduct themselves in ways that have the least harmful impacts, and that align with the aims of the Code of Ethics.