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Unsung heroes of the pandemic: Sign Language Interpreters

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CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — They have become familiar faces. During every governor’s press briefing about COVID-19, you have seen them. We’re talking about sign language interpreters, and their jobs are critical to getting the state’s message out to the hearing impaired.

Jennifer Casto, who is a sign language interpreter in West Virginia says, “It’s great that we have this opportunity. I know other states haven’t provided sign language interpreting for their press conferences, and West Virginia has since the first day, so that’s something to be proud of, and I’m glad we set a trend for that.”

It’s a trend other states have followed, including Ohio and Kentucky. Casto adds there is a lot of information to get out.

“It’s a lot of work, more mentally than physically, just listening to what everybody is saying, and trying to convey that message out,” Casto says.

For the other West Virginia interpreter, Julie Turley, it comes with special meaning.

“My parents are deaf, so I’ve been signing my entire life. I was signing before I was talking. So it’s just apart of me,” Turley says.

She now uses as fuel to help keep the hearing impaired community up to date with the current pandemic.

And being in that house my whole life I know where we came from and where we are today, so being able to do this, it is flattering, and it is humbling, it’s a little overwhelming but its wonderful to know that we’re able to get the message across to all of the people and that’s what’s most important.”

Julie Turley, Sign Language Interpreter

The American Speech Language Hearing Association – estimates 306,000 West Virginians may be living with varying degrees of hearing loss.

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