Crisis sheds light on signers

Signer at daily Ohio press conference
Posted On: Friday, March 27, 2020

COVID-19 news conferences can be found just about any time on TV and Internet. And many, including the daily one by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, are shining a spotlight on the interpreters making the news accessible to the deaf.

Since August, Ashley Gorsuch has been teaching a pilot American Sign Language (ASL) course at Ottawa Hills Junior/Senior High School. The added visibility is great news to teachers like her.

“This is a huge advancement in accessibility for the deaf community to have certified interpreters in full view,” Mrs. Gorsuch said. “The information being given is vital and could be life-saving.”

Many viewers are riveted by the dynamic facial expressions and hand movements used by the ASL interpreters. Mrs. Gorsuch said the animated gestures are an essential part of ASL grammar, which as a visual language relies on the eyes to receive information.

“The students are learning the different professions and avenues in which this amazingly beautiful and complex language is used all around us,” she added. “Understanding how the processing of taking in one auditory language and translating into the visual language is mentally exhausting. We are able to learn from and break down these current examples in class, too.”

The district’s “ASL I” course has proven popular enough that it is returning next year. This year, 19 students are enrolled.

Several OH students in the class participated as signers at a holiday sing-along event at Hensville; recently, one of Mrs. Gorsuch’s classes took a field trip to Ann Arbor where they saw a performance of “Coding to the Moon: Margaret Hamilton and the Apollo Missions.” The performance included actors in speaking and signing roles in the bilingual production.





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