Accessibility For American And Nepali Deaf Communities During COVID-19

Local News

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 health pandemic, Onondaga County has been providing ground breaking access to information for American and Nepali Deaf Communities in Central New York.  While County Executive Ryan McMahon’s press conference have become a part of our everyday routines you may have noticed the two interpreters on either side of McMahon.  They are in fact interpreting two different languages, American Sign Language (ASL) and Nepali Sign Language (NSL).   

Syracuse is home to a large population of individuals that utilizes sign language in their native language as their primary way of communicating. They are referred to as Deaf New Americans and NSL is their primary language.  As these individuals do not sign ASL, nor read or write in English, closed captioning is not accessible to them.  

Through Aurora of Central New York, the county was able to work out a deal to have two Deaf Interpreters (DI) on stage during Ryan McMahon’s daily COVID-19 press conferences. Maggie Russell, Director of the Marjorie Clere Interpreter Referral Service of CNY tells us that it’s crucial for the Deaf community to have access to this information during the pandemic and to not put anyone at risk.   

The process of interpreting includes four people in total.  Two hearing ASL interpreters are on the floor, known as Feeders, they are listening to the spoken English and then interpret into ASL for the Deaf Interpreters (DI) on stage.  The DI’s are then outputting the information through ASL and NSL to the public.

In addition, not only are these press conferences being shown to the local Syracuse Deaf communities but are being accessible to the Nepalese community around the globe.  Nepali Sign Language Interpreter Monu Chhetri tells us, the information through signing NSL has become accessible for others to see outside of Onondaga County.  Chhetri says, “I focus on my work with the people and make sure I do what’s right for the Deaf Nepalese people in Onondaga County and all over the United States.” 

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