How sign language interpreters are vital to the fight against COVID-19

As information continues to evolve surrounding COVID-19, sign language interpreters are vital to communicate the latest developments to the deaf community.

“If we are already in a time of crisis and then we are only presenting information to them only in English, they have to rely on captioning and they don’t get access to American sign language, we are not providing them with the best possible chance of receiving information and using it to keep their families safe,” explained Vicki Bond, ERIC Program Administrator.

During Arizona Governor Doug Ducey’s press conferences, you may notice interpreters by his side. They are a part of the Arizona Emergency Response Interpreter Credentialing Program; also know as the ERIC program.

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Victoria Bond says she’s believes it’s the only program of it’s kind in the country.

"It is absolutely critical that the message going out to the public be clear, accurate and timely. What we don’t want is information going out without an interpreter and then a couple of hours later we have an interpreter who retroactively adds that information so now the deaf community has been waiting hours for information that everyone else has had. That is compromising their safety," Bond says.

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Interpreters and captioners are hand-selected, screened and well-trained, a unique element to Arizona.

“We go through a pretty rigorous training that is taught by our partners in emergency management including wildfire, the folks at the county emergency managers offices so we know what there jobs are and we understand the language that they are using," she said.

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Adding, “It’s important that these communities have equal access to the information that people who can hear are receiving so when we are having live interpreters in those situations were trained and qualified it’s very vital so that we receive that information in visual form."