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ASL Services Founder, Interpreter Angela Roth Says Deaf Community Needs Equal Access to Coronavirus Information

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Angela Roth signing at a press conference on Sunday. Photo: Matthew Peddie

Angela Roth is the founder of ASL Services. Her company provides interpreters to the City of Orlando and Orange County for their weekly press conferences on the virus. 

She’s a familiar face as she herself is an interpreter both in English and Spanish usually located on the left hand of Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer or Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings during these events.

90.7’s Danielle Prieur spoke with Roth about the progress that has been made toward greater accessibility for the deaf community-and why we still need to do more. 

Read their full conversation below. 

Danielle: So how do you sign new words or phrases like COVID-19 or social distancing?

Angela: Well, that’s where we really appreciate the deaf community. And we do have sometimes in our roster deaf interpreters, or that’s awesome, because we’re doing Spanish as well, we have not been able to really bring in our Spanish, you know team at this point with our deaf team, but they’re the ones who really it’s the community we look to. So for example, as soon as we heard about the coronavirus, of course, everybody’s online checking, and the sign actually came from the Japanese deaf community. So it’s kind of interesting how signs evolve, or develop in everybody’s vocabulary.

Danielle: What would you tell people who say we already have closed captioning? So why do we need ASL interpreters?

Angela: Well, the first thing I would tell people is turn off your TV and just read the captioning. And if you can keep up with that, that’s amazing. It is very hard to read. As well as to capture the essence because we really get the essence. And that’s why we’re often seen right there where you can see the person who’s speaking. Because you can’t get all the emotion, the concern, or if something’s very important, or if they’re really making a pausing to make a point, that’s not going to come through at all. It’s just the words coming through, which is helpful, but there’s no way that you’re going to get all that information. Plus, we do have to understand that American Sign Language is not English, there are ways that some people can sign English words, take the signs and put them in English syntax and English order the way we speak. But that’s not really American Sign Language. It has a completely different structure. And so as a result, it’s a different language.

Danielle: What are some of the changes you’ve had to make signing in Spanish?

Angela: So it is a challenge. One of the challenges is if you kind of notice, we have to be somewhat behind, you know, they speak and so we’re a little bit behind. So you will notice that the interpreter is interpreting in English. They finish speaking but the interpreter is still going. But the Spanish interpreter has started. So our first challenge is holding onto information so that to let the English finish and then catch up with what’s going on with the Spanish. Also, depending on the Spanish we come from different backgrounds, so sometimes terminology and our difference in accents depending on where the person who’s asking the question is from. So sometimes this is like “Hey, can I, can I catch is that more of a Colombian accent or Venezuelan or is it from Puerto Rico?” And so depending on our background, you know, making sure we’re catching what’s being said.

Danielle: How can we make information about the pandemic more accessible to the deaf community?

Angela: We as hearing people will hear the radio on top of anything we read, on top of the TV, you know, every station so we can get it again and again and again. But trying to read it again and again is not the same. And so again, the more that we can make it accessible and fun and keep repeating it and showing it even some of the commercials, why not include it to make sure that it’d be in sign language and in Spanish, so it’s keeping everybody cognizant of that silent community and they should not be left in silence.

If you’d like to listen to the full conversation, click on the clip above.

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Danielle Prieur

About Danielle Prieur


Danielle Prieur is a general reporter for 90.7 News. She studied journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and interned at 101.9 WDET. She is originally from the metro Detroit area.