You’ve seen ASL interpreters at COVID-19 press conferences.

Did you know that many of them are deaf, including Marla Berkowitz (for Dewine/Acton), shown here, and Sarah Bianco (for Cranley)? That news makes some people wonder how they can sign the speaker’s remarks into ASL? The illustration shows how it’s done.

The on-camera CDI (Certified Deaf Interpreter) or DI (Deaf Interpreter) is part of a team. Another team member is a HI (hearing interpreter) who listens and signs the spoken words to the DI or CDI. ASL interpreting is mentally exhausting, and there’s often an alternate HI to permit frequent breaks. That’s why the interpreters rotate off to take a break.

ASL is the native language of CDIs and DIs, not English, and that tends to make their communication more expressive. Expressive ASL signing makes the message clear to an audience unfamiliar with the local ASL “dialect.”