Even in the worst of disasters, something positive always comes out. And before Storm Sandy hit the East Coast in October 2012, many things came to the fore.
Aside from stemming major losses to life and property, it came to everybody’s attention the need to reach out to everyone when a disaster is about to occur, and it does mean everyone, including the abled as well as the disabled.
When Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York was making his announcements on television about what to do before Storm Sandy made landfall, everyone’s eyes were glued to the television. One of the Mayor’s sign language interpreters was making a huge impact on the televiewers. Lydia Callis, while making her sign language interpretation of the Mayor’s announcements and appeals, was very animated, visually interpreting the importance and urgency of the announcement. And she was able to create more impact, affecting those who were functionally deaf, those who understood sign language, those who could read lips and even those who could fully hear what was being said. Such was the power Lydia Callis showed in her vigorous and animated sign language interpretation, using not only her nimble hands and fingers but her whole body as well to convey the urgency of the situation.
Reaching the Able and the Disabled
In dire situations such as before, during and after a major emergency, the need to inform as many people as possible is of utmost import. The able-bodied might respond and take action as quickly as possible. That is not the case with the disabled. They need help. For the deaf and the mute, sign language is a huge blessing. Although they are able to function well physically, they are still impeded by their inability to hear or speak.
And in such cases like the storm that hit the East Coast last October, sign language interpretation probably came to rescue more people. This was because of the immediate response of the government entities involved and the active participation of Lydia Callis in her very animated interpretation of what should be done before and during the expected lashing New York would be subjected to when Category 3 Storm Sandy surged inland.
Interpretation and translation for the hearing and speaking impaired populace
There are approximately 36 million Americans who are afflicted with some form of hearing loss and about two to three out of every 1,000 children born in the United States are born hard-of-hearing or are totally deaf.
The subject is serious, and the need for more interpreters and translators of the American Sign Language (ASL) increases each year. Interpreting for the deaf and the hard-of-hearing is a noble profession. According to the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf or RID, an interpreter needs to be someone committed to obtain the certification and to maintain and grow the skills that they will acquire and inherently possess. The individual must have a vast knowledge of the English language, must be audibly heard, speaks clearly and able to portray and convey the feelings of the speaker, showing no difference whether the interpretation is through sign language or voice interpreting. The interpreter must understand that interpreting is a very complex process, which involves linguistic, technical and cognitive skills. Finally, an interpreter must also have the emotional stability as well as the physical endurance and stamina to handle any kind of assignment and must maintain confidentiality as needed.
Interpreting in today’s media-savvy world
There are many types of communication processes to reach individuals with the help of technology, and developers are busily creating mobile applications to be used by the deaf and the hard-of-hearing for faster and effective communication with other individuals. Still, television remains the fastest way to deliver the news to the widest audience. Oftentimes you would see on the TV screen a sign language interpreter, that at times looks like part of the television props. Their presence is important for the benefit of the special audience, but somehow their appearance is almost nondescript. They are dressed formally, their delivery devoid of any emotion and they only appear in a small section of the whole television screen.
Sign language interpreting is serious business, but it doesn’t really mean that the interpreter should appear formal and staid in every occasion. It is possible for them to lose their formal stance and still be very effective in interpreting what is being said. After all it is not the demeanor that delivers the message, but the skill and adeptness with the sign language and a bit of animation and liveliness in the delivery helps. Actually it could be more influential in some situations. Just like what Lydia Callis said during her CNN interview, she was [sic] “interpreting the mayor’s message faithfully as possible.” And her animation during her interpretation that fateful day in October surely made a difference in the world of interpreting.