American Sign Language interpreters provide access to information during COVID-19

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Call it a sign of the times. You see them side-by-side with government leaders, exposing themselves without a mask, to make sure vital information and rules are shared and that no one gets left out. We spotlight these heroes, the American Sign Language interpreters, who should not be overlooked.

Patty Sakal is an American Sign Language interpreter and says the gravity of the responsibility to convey crucial information during this pandemic is great. The work they do is vital and they know it. So Sakal and her colleagues work hard and some are noticing.

“Hey, are you the lady that signs for the Governor? Yeah, that would be me. So a lot of people have come up and shown interest in sign language. I think what we are grateful for in the deaf community is the visibility of the access,” said Sakal.

Sakal has been an ASL interpreter for about 43 years. Interpreting for COVID-19, she says, is historical.

“The difference is that you can’t let your guard down on the information because the information is constantly changing,” she said.

For Brien Nakamoto, having an ASL interpreter makes all the difference. Interpreters gave him a better understanding of the message as opposed to reading closed captioning.

“Hearing people can hear the news either through TV or radio or the Internet. But for us deaf people, we have to chase to get the news out there or even have an ASL interpret that so we understand it clearly,” said Nakamoto through the help of interpreter Michele Morris.

ASL interpreters need to keep up-to-date on the latest news to prepare. It can be taxing on the mind to process information in real-time and deliver it in another language. That’s why you usually see 2 interpreters switch off, so they can convey the message accurately and with integrity.

Sabina Wilford of Hawaii Interpreting Services tells us she would like to see more certified deaf interpreters be involved because ASL is their native language.

“I think we need more training. We need opportunities like I said we use deaf interpreters not certified in community settings like medical situations, legal situations, and when it’s a good deaf interpreter and hearing interpreter teaming well together it’s very successful,” said Wilford.


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