Coronavirus: Sign language interpreters are more vital than ever, providing crucial COVID-19 information

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Sign language interpreters are more vital than ever as they provide crucial information to the deaf and hard of hearing community, especially as the U.S. faces the coronavirus pandemic.

It's always during times of crisis that the hearing world gets a glimpse and a better understanding of American Sign Language's unsung heroes.

"The facial expression, the body movements, the mouthing, the eyes, the head, all of that grammar of American Sign Language, so it's a requirement to do that," said American Sign Language interpreter Rorri Burton.

Burton is providing life-saving information to the hard of hearing community during Los Angeles city and county press conferences.

"So I have the names of the speakers in advance and that's all I get. And so it's basically just hearing what they're saying and hoping I'm spelling the proper names correctly," Burton said.

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It's a task she doesn't take lightly -- and does get nervous.

"You're probably going to be the first exposure for most people to a black interpreter on television, so I feel the weight of representing that," Burton said.

Burton doesn't have a deaf or hard of hearing family member, but her mother would teach her about the deaf community as a child.

"We would watch PBS and there was a woman who had a weekly sign language show," Burton said.

The woman they would watch on television would sign songs. It's a lifelong lesson Burton is now using to help others.

"We are here to provide access to people in the deaf community who need access to that information just like everyone else does," Burton said.
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