The title above may seem strange coming from a deaf man but I really do think we have to stop using sign language interpreters for public announcements. Its time to move on to better ways. Way better ways…
The facts show us that the ASL interpreters who are often behind a public official announcing something is understood by less that 20% of the people who are deaf and less than 2% of those who have hearing impairments. But there is a technology that is understood by probably 90%+ of that population. That technology is captioning. It is cheap, it is reliable and most of all serves the vast majority of those of us who are deaf/hearing impaired. Here are some facts to back up these numbers:
The Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) is one of a few national surveys that regularly collects data identifying the American population of persons with hearing loss or deafness. Estimates from the SIPP indicate that fewer than 1 in 20 Americans are currently deaf or hard of hearing. In round numbers, nearly 10,000,000 persons are hard of hearing and close to 1,000,000 are functionally deaf. More than half of all persons with hearing loss or deafness are 65 years or older and less than 4% are under 18 years of age….
More than half the folks who are deaf went deaf as a result of the aging process and know very little or nothing about any type of sign language. I have been deaf for about 30 years now and have become quite proficient in understanding signed English, at least me and my wife’s version. ASL is just beyond my comprehension. One of the problems with ASL is that it is not an English type language in syntax and many adjectives are facial expressions instead of signed words. Depending on the interpreter there can be many different ways to sign the same thing. Some, who do use ASL, sign it one way some another. Let’s quit pretending that an ASL interpreter satisfies the needs of the deaf/ hearing impaired community and move on to providing captions through a monitor to vastly increase the reach to this population.