'It's critical': The role interpreters are playing during the COVID-19 crisis
TORONTO -- We don't usually hear from Christopher DesLoges, he's the man behind the premier at the daily Covid-19 news conferences. But the American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter is speaking volumes to the province's deaf community.
"We just want to make sure the deaf community has access, so I had to do a significant amount of homework to understand exactly what is going to be said, and how they're going to say it, to make sure that I convey that properly and so deaf people understand exactly how it was said," DesLoges tells CTV News Toronto.
Deaf Interpreter Sarah Stadnicki calls their role "critical" during the coronavirus pandemic.
"It could be a matter of life or death," she says, with the help of ASL Interpreter Becky Stuckless. "It's important the community has access to the information that's coming from natural language. Without that, we're overwhelmed with what's coming in English, which is not our primary language."
Stadnicki says seeing an interpreter at this time is a "relief," given that English is not a deaf person's first language. She says it can be difficult to make immediate sense of closed captioning.
"It can be very overwhelming, especially with something like coronavirus. The information is evolving daily, new information is coming out, so it's very stressful to try to understand it in a second language and try to figure it out."
DesLoges says his aunt, who is deaf, started teaching him ASL when he was ten-years-old. He learned from her, and from friends, just how important the role of an interpreter can be.
"I was absolutely obsessed with the language," he says. "What I did was just practiced sign language all the time, I socialized with the deaf community. I spent a lot of time with them and they shared with me that there's such a high demand and how hard it is to get interpreters."
Still, DesLoges says he feels a lot of pressure when he's standing on camera behind the premier.
"Because what actually happens is...people think that we're going to be perfect and we're not. We're only humans, we're not machines, so we're doing our best to interpret it, we're doing our best to create a communication access for the deaf community."
Nonetheless, DesLoges says he is doing his best to be prepared at all times, knowing how crucial his role is.
"When we get in there each day we have an opportunity to review some of the terms and some of the things that they're talking about. As well, I'm staying on top of current news and current events to see what's happening at the Prime Minister's office that may be mentioned by the premier's office."
For her part, Stadnicki says she's happy officials have recognized how important it is to empower deaf people.
"What I'm hopeful for is, after coronavirus resolves, is that access will continue for the deaf community. That this becomes an ongoing thing."
In short, Stadnicki says she hopes interpretation services become the "new norm" at news conferences.