Behind the Scenes: Seven Things You Didn’t Know About Sign Interpreters

Community & Services

Among the familiar faces at Orange County Government’s COVID-19 updates (nearly 60 conferences and counting so far since March 2020) are American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters, from Kissimmee-based ASL Services. The ASL interpreters play a key role in making sure the County’s deaf and hard of hearing residents have equal access to communication. Frequent viewers of the County’s press conferences often share positive comments on social media about the ASL interpreters, in addition to asking questions about their profession.

Several facts about the ASL community everyone should know:

  1. American Sign Language is not universal.  Like spoken languages, there are roughly 70 different sign languages throughout the world. American Sign Language is only used in America and was formulated by the deaf community in the United States.
  2. American Sign Language interpretation is a profession. To become a certified ASL interpreter, individuals must go to college to study ASL signs, finger spelling and body language. They obtain degrees and participate in many trainings, until they are fluent in the language. Generally, it takes at least 2-3 years to attain a beginning-intermediate understanding of ASL. To attain an intermediate-fluent understanding, it takes another 2 years of ASL/English interpretation training.
  3. Lip reading is not a successful way of communication. Only 30 percent of information can be comprehended from lip reading, which means more than half of communication is lost on individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing, if ASL interpretation is not provided.
  4. ASL interpreters can be deaf. Certified deaf interpreters are interpreters who are able to bridge the cultural gap between the hearing and deaf communities. They are able to provide a message from the hearing interpreter to the deaf interpreter, and then from the deaf interpreter to the deaf individual, ensuring that the communication is clear and concise.
  5. ASL is not English. ASL does not follow the English word order, which is why closed captioning is not an effective communication tool for some hearing impaired individuals. ASL has its own grammar and syntax. In addition, many in the deaf community do not read; another reason why closed captioning is not an effective communication tool.
  6. Facial expressions are an essential part of ASL communication. ASL interpreters use exaggerated facial expressions because it helps convey words and emotions while signing.
  7. People of all ages experience hearing impairment. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, one in eight people in the United States, aged 12 years or older, has hearing loss in both ears, based on standard hearing examinations. Because of this staggering statistic, it is the County’s duty to make sure all of Central Florida has access to proper communication during times of uncertainty – from language interpretation to ASL interpretation.

 To watch past Orange County COVID-19 press conferences, visit

Cutline: ASL Services provide certified American Sign Language interpreters for Orange County’s news conferences and events.  

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