Deaf community hopes interpreters at COVID-19 press conferences raise awareness, increase accessibility for American Sign Language

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — The National Association of the Deaf calls American Sign Language “the backbone of American deaf culture.”

As the third most popular language in the United States and Canada, ASL allows for conversation and education. That’s why knowing, learning, and teaching ASL is so important.

“Like any spoken language, ASL has its own rules, its own grammar, it’s own syntax,” said Stephanie Lipe, an instructor and assistant professor at ISU teaching ASL education classes.

For deaf people and people in the deaf community, ASL is a necessity.

“I feel that it’s very important for communication access,” said DiAnn Sances a teacher for the interpreting program at Illinois Central College.

ASL allows people to communicate quickly while creating a visual picture.

“American sign language is just a remarkable way for us to be able to communicate and to have that accessibility for everyone,” said Lipe.

Now, ASL is getting more exposure. Interpreters are often seen at Gov. Prtizker and local health department’s daily COVID-19 press conferences.

“It’s really helping hearing people to have awareness. So that awareness that there is that need for communication and it’s making them curious and asking questions, so that’s wonderful,” said Sances.

With more hearing people seeing the language in action, it can spark an interest in learning the language.

“You don’t have to be proficient or fluent, but just to learn and be able to communicate when you may run into a deaf person,” said Lipe.

They think anyone can learn ASL and encourage everyone to take a class.

This interview was interpreted by Shana Ames.

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COVID-19 IN CENTRAL ILLINOIS

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