Illusions of Access: Lessons from a Pandemic (video)

When COVID-19 struck, Betty Colonomos found herself in a similar situation to that of many people: work cancelled, social networks disrupted, at home anxious for timely and accurate information about the virus, its spread, and public mandates and policies. At that time no national press conferences were being interpreted. Colonomos decided to view some state briefings where a Deaf interpreter was on screen. She turned off the sound and closed captions to see how intelligible the messages were that Deaf people were getting. Those interpretations were understandable and effective. She then watched interpreted broadcasts from ten different states where there was not a Deaf interpreter involved and found herself struggling to make sense of what she was seeing. Given the utmost urgency and import of these press conferences, she decided to research what appeared to be a common occurrence across the country.

Illusions of Access is the result of a study that Colonomos undertook in 2020 where clips of hearing interpreters working at state level COVID-19 briefings across the country were shown to a group of seasoned interpreters (hearing and heritage signers) and then to a group of nine Deaf individuals from varied backgrounds. The findings are alarming and compelling.

Presentation on ZoomThis video is the taped February 11 zoom presentation to an audience of 100 participants. It opens with an explanation of the study and is followed by two small group breakout sessions and subsequent large group debriefs. 

This webinar lends itself to a variety of settings. One may watch this alone. Small groups (of interpreters, students, Deaf consumers, etc) can view and discuss this together. The implications for interpreters, for interpreter formation and development, for further research, and for examining the true meaning of “access” are compelling and many.

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