Tag: ASL

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Deaf ASL Interpreters on DPAN for US Presidential Debate

Interpretation

In the absence of ASL interpreting services in official presidential events, DPAN has commissioned several ASL interpreters to provide interpreting services on the organization’s livestream during the election season.

The US presidential debates have never commissioned ASL interpreters to provide interpreting services for the event, forcing millions of Deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers to rely on a flawed, live closed captioning system to experience one of the presidential election season’s most important events. In response to the debate’s lack of ASL interpreters, the Deaf Professional Arts Network (DPAN) has livestreamed the debates with ASL interpreters assigned to each party during the debate. Along with two other ASL interpreters who were assigned to interpret President Trump and debate moderator Chris Wallace, deaf ASL interpreter Regan Thibodeau expressed excitement over the chance to push for more representation for Deaf and hard-of-hearing citizens.

The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) reports that 37.5 million American adults over the age of 18 report some trouble hearing, and nearly one million Americans are functionally deaf according to the US Census Bureau. Responding to increased calls for ASL interpreting services, the Commission on Presidential Debates released a statement promising a format change for upcoming debates but has not made any official statement yet on improved real-time accessibility options.

This led organizers at DPAN to take it upon themselves to provide the vital interpreting service during the first debate. A non-partisan organization, DPAN was originally created to extend music and music culture to those who are Deaf and hard of hearing, but the organization has now moved into interpreting the debates to ensure the same community has equal access to voting information.

“Impartiality, people really need to be aware of the importance of that. Who I am interpreting for does not reflect who I am as a person. It does not reflect my beliefs and values. It only reflects my interpreting value of access,” Thibodeau said. “It’s not just making faces. It’s not just being animated. There are linguistic meanings behind it and nuances when you tilt your head to the left, to the right, to the back, to the front. It is very complicated. Not something you can learn in two years at all.”

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SDL Tados 2021

Deaf Missions Completes First ASL Translation for Bible

Translation

The 38-year project from Deaf Missions will provide a valuable guide for other sign language translations of the Bible, as well as for translations of any text into the world’s 400-plus sign languages.

Deaf Missions has announced the completion of a 38-year translation project of the Bible from its original languages of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek into American Sign Language (ASL) using video. The organization had already completed the New Testament in 2004, but now the full text of both the Old and New Testaments will now be available to Deaf, ASL-communicating individuals through the Deaf Missions website or app.

“While Deaf Americans that are practicing Christians in particular have reason to celebrate, this really represents a broader win for all Deaf people and ASL communicators,” said Deaf Missions CEO, Chad Entinger. “This translation comes at a time in history when a lot is possible in terms of advancements for accommodating Deaf people. The explosion of digital technology and accessible video has allowed more Deaf people to share knowledge and communicate. Not unlike how the Bible was the first book printed on a modern printing press or the creation of the first Braille Bible in the 20th century, the availability of an ASL version of the Bible demonstrates a turning point in the culture toward normalizing sign languages.”

The pandemic has forced major limitations for the Deaf community when it comes to day-to-day routines and communications. Specifically, widespread mask wearing has created a major barrier for Deaf individuals, since facial expression is such a critical part of the language. Additionally, while video has become a primary tool in education since the pandemic hit, Deaf students have faced limitations in access, even with an interpreter present. Even in non-pandemic times, development of Sign Language translations will provide Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing people much-needed access to both religious and academic texts.

“As a Deaf translator and a Christian, this work has been an important project for me,” states Renca Dunn, communication specialist and graduate of Gallaudet University. “What I wish more people understood is that for many Deaf people in the U.S., English is our second language. It can be a challenge for Deaf individuals to connect with printed text. It’s hard to wrap your head around the fact that, for thousands of years, Deaf people have faced communication barriers and lack of access to fully understanding one of the oldest and most cherished texts of all time – the Bible. Now, translators have the framework to keep translating the Bible into other sign languages. It’s incredible, the amount of impact it may have.”

In the United States, the CDC estimates that about 1 million Americans are deaf, not including those that are very hard of hearing. At least 70% of Americans identify as Christians. Additional survey data from the American Bible Society shows that 77% of Americans live in a household that owns a Bible. However, for many Deaf individuals, their Bible was not printed in their first language.

“We will continue our work for the Deaf communities, and we hope what we do reverberates into the culture. I’d like to see an America where it’s normal to see a video created in ASL engage the Deaf Community. One where it is typical for churches to utilize videos in ASL to reach Deaf people. One where schools have equal respect for English and ASL. I would like to see a world where Deaf people truly have equal access to information and job opportunities,” said Entinger.

Deaf Missions began the translation project of the Bible from the source texts into a viewable (not printed) version in American Sign Language almost 40 years ago. Founder of Deaf Missions Duane King began the project in 1982. The completed ASLV was primarily translated by Deaf people for Deaf people, featuring 53 different translators. The ASLV will now be used as a resource text for other Bible translations into one of the 400-plus unique sign languages around the world.

Although the project was led by Deaf Missions, the efforts also received support from the American Bible Society, Deaf Bible Society, Deaf Harbor, DOOR International, Pioneer Bible Translators, The Seed Company, and Wycliffe USA.

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Lawsuit Demands White House Virus Briefings Include ASL

Language in the News

As many linguistically marginalized communities struggle to receive critical information about the COVID-19 crisis from national officials, the National Association of the Deaf has decided to file a lawsuit demanding inclusion in White House press briefings.

The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) has joined the effort to improve communication about life-saving health information for communities without access to official statements. Filing a lawsuit this week, the NAD seeks to compel President Trump and the White House to immediately begin providing American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters during television broadcasts of COVID-19 press conferences to grant access to deaf and hard of hearing people.

“All 50 states’ governors have provided in-frame [ASL] interpretation during public briefings regarding the pandemic, and all but a small handful continue to do so consistently,” the complaint states. “President Trump, however, does not. He now stands alone in holding televised briefings regarding the COVID-19 pandemic without ever having provided any ASL interpretation.”

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), one in eight people in the US aged 12 years or older has hearing loss in both ears. This statistic indicates that for about 30 million Americans, accessibility is crucial to receiving the most up-to-date information about the virus.

Moreover, although captioning is available during live broadcasts on network television, live captioning is often insufficient, especially for people whose primary language is ASL. The NAD highlights on its website that “Like any spoken language, ASL is a language with its own unique rules of grammar and syntax. Like all languages, ASL is a living language that grows and changes over time.”

The complaint asserts that the White House fails to follow federal law, which “unequivocally prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities, which includes failing to provide meaningful access to public benefits, programs, or services.”

In the same article of the lawsuit, the plaintiffs cite a recent lawsuit filed against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in May under similar criteria. They quote the court’s ruling of the lawsuit, which states, “Without immediate implementation of an in-frame ASL interpreter, Plaintiffs and other similarly situated deaf New Yorkers will continue to be denied timely access to critical information, leaving them less able to comply with current orders and advice, less able to prepare for the future, and more anxious about current conditions and the future.”

Established in 1880, the NAD is one of the oldest civil rights organizations in the US, safeguarding the civil, human, and linguistics rights of 48 million deaf and hard of hearing people in the US, including hundreds of thousands whose primary language is ASL. As the deaf and hard of hearing community fight for justice during the pandemic, many other linguistically marginalized communities may see a beacon of hope.

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