For the first time in history, the White House has full-time American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters who help bring the president’s message to everyone during livestream broadcasts.
Elsie Stecker, who is completely deaf, is the first-ever official White House ASL interpreter. The groundbreaking position comes after advocates sued to get live ASL interpreting during COVID briefings. The Biden administration went a step further, hiring Stecker as well as non-deaf ASL interpreter Lindsey Snyder as members of the staff.
“This is a dream job of that combination of the political information and the interpreting. It fits me very, very well,” Stecker said. “I have to recognize and thank the deaf community and the grassroots deaf people who pushed so hard to make sure that this access was available,” Stecker said.
Stecker and Snyder spend hours each day preparing by reading up on the news and topics on the White House schedule. When an event starts, Snyder listens, then interprets for Stecker, who signs in front of the camera.
“I’m interpreting from English into ASL, and I’m essentially feeding Elsie, who then takes that message and interprets it,” Snyder said. “I call it real-time editing.”
The White House could have just hired someone like Snyder to do this work, but it went the extra step of hiring somebody who is completely deaf.
“Deaf people who are ASL users can watch and identify that it’s a deaf person signing on the screen,” Stecker said. “Most hearing interpreters, they learned ASL, so they have an accent in ASL, where a deaf person, who grew up using ASL, doesn’t have that same kind of accent,” she said. “We also, as deaf interpreters, can gauge what a deaf audience would potentially need—that some kind of terminology is clearer than others, or that some things need a little more expansion and explanation.”
Their work is helping bring crucial information to a larger audience.
“We have our own skill set that manages to come together to put out the most effective message to bring in a community that’s been marginalized for so long,” Snyder said.
“I’m not here for myself, to be in this position,” Stecker said. “I’m here for the deaf community to have access to those messages.”
Read Full Article from CBS News (NY) (03/29/22)