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Advocates Call For More ASL Interpreters, Resources for the Deaf Community During Coronavirus Pandemic

Photo: Victoria Priessnitz
Photo: Victoria Priessnitz

Advocates for the deaf say there need to be more ASL interpreters and resources to help convey life-saving health information to the deaf community during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Angela Roth is the founder of ASL Services and an interpreter at Orange County and City of Orlando press conferences about the virus. 

Roth says closed captioning can be difficult to follow in real-time because it can be incorrect or incomplete and lacks any indication of tone.

“It is very hard to read as well as to capture the essence. Cause we really get the essence," Roth said. "And that’s why we’re often seen right there where you can see the person whose speaking."

"Because you can’t get all the emotion, the concern, if something’s very important or if they’re really pausing to make a point. That’s not going to come through at all.”

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Roth says she wants to see more PSAs in ASL or quick ASL video summaries at the top of online articles to encourage face masks and social distancing.

“So that at least before they start reading it. They see in sign. What is this article going to be about? And that will give them a better chance as they read it to kind of catch on," she said. "Because again it is a different language."

"So anybody whose learned a second language would appreciate OK somebody tell me what it’s going to be talking about in my language?”

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She says they’ve started offering signing in Spanish to include the Spanish-speaking deaf community. According to the Florida Department of Health, more than 56,000 Floridians have been infected with COVID-19.

If you'd like to listen to the story, click on the clips above.

Danielle Prieur covers education in Central Florida.