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Hurricane Irma signing was 'horrible and embarrassing,' says deaf interpreter

Hurricane Irma: ASL interpreter translates information inaccurately at Florida presser

As officials at the Manatee County Emergency Operations Center told residents that there would be a mandatory evacuation for residents in Zone A, its ASL interpreter translated 95% of the information provided inaccurately. A version of the video h
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As officials at the Manatee County Emergency Operations Center told residents that there would be a mandatory evacuation for residents in Zone A, its ASL interpreter translated 95% of the information provided inaccurately. A version of the video h

A well-known certified deaf interpreter said the signing that one person did at a Manatee County Emergency Operations Center update was “horrible and embarrassing.”

Residents have been receiving regular updates as Hurricane Irma is expected to track through the Tampa Bay area later Sunday. But for deaf residents, the information has been less clear.

Jason Hurdich, a Clemson University professor known for his animated interpretations of American Sign Language, said the interpreter at the Friday update at noon was translating incoherent and incomplete information for the deaf audience, as officials told residents that there would be a mandatory evacuation for residents in Zone A.

Hurdich told the Bradenton Herald through an interpreter that he first learned about the video on a Facebook group called Live Access ASL.

“We were just shocked,” he said.

Manatee County spokesman Nick Azzara told a Herald reporter that the interpreter, a Manatee County lifeguard, has a brother who is deaf and was asked to sign during the update rather than have no one signing. The county has requested an interpreter and public information assistance from the state, Azzara said.

In a transcription of the signing provided by Hurdich, the interpreter said things like “Help you at that time too use bear big.” A video that provided subtitles of the interpretation has been viewed more than 22,000 times, calling the interpreter "fake."

There’s a big difference between grammar and usage in ASL and English, Hurdich said. He could not understand 95 percent of what the person was signing.

“We heavily depend on facial expressions depending on grammar,” he said, as tone of voice can’t be heard. “You have to follow their facial expressions. You can see the degree of intensity.”

Hurdich said that the all governments should be prepared to have a certified interpreter. Not having an interpreter can be dangerous.

“It’s critical, especially in an emergency situation,” Hurdich said.

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