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Global pandemic highlights the importance of ASL interpreters

Posted at 5:38 PM, Sep 11, 2020

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — “Quite often people will think, oh it's great to see that person signing. It's great that you're doing that for the deaf people that are watching but to actually be able to give context and to give people an understanding of what the purpose is really valuable,” director of Deaf Access Services Jodie Chibi said.

Chibi has been an ASL interrupter for 12 years.

“We provide services for everything," she said. "From a doctor's appointment to a job interview, to court, you name it.”

And while ASL interpreters have been more in the spotlight due to COVID-19, Chibi says this is the world she’s always lived in.

“Providing these services while it seems like a nice gesture and it seems like people are doing a great thing by including the deaf community, they’re actually following the law," she said.

According to a 2011 survey, about 3.6% of the U.S. population, or about 11 million people, consider themselves deaf or hard of hearing. And according to the American Disability Act, interpreters must be provided for any communication access.

“So if someone goes in to see their doctors and they say I’m deaf and need to see my interpreter, by law, the interrupter has to be provided," Chibi said.

But she says she thinks the visibility of interprets during this pandemic could be a good thing for the deaf community.

“It’s a step, and you know the more those steps are taken, and the more visible they become, the more people are made aware," she said.