[lg policy] New York: Meet Mayor Bloomberg's Sign-Language Interpreter

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Thu Nov 1 15:16:10 UTC 2012

Meet Mayor Bloomberg's Sign-Language Interpreter
 Updated October 31, 2012 11:14am
October 31, 2012 11:14am | By Jill Colvin, DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — As New Yorkers kept their eyes glued to Mayor
Michael Bloomberg’s frequent news conferences for updates on Hurricane
Sandy, one bright spot emerged from the gloom.

Lydia Callis, the mayor's new sign-language interpreter, has been the
star of the disaster, earning rave reviews for her animated
interpretations of the mayor’s often gruff demeanor and his
descriptions of the destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy.

“The sign language translator on NY1 is just mesmerizing.” Tweeted one
early admirer.

"We Love You, Lydia Callis," another raved.

She's even spawned several Tumblr pages, including "Lydia Callis's
Face For NYC Mayor."

For Callis, who doesn't usually pay attention to Twitter, all of the
attention has come as a bit of a shock.

“It's pretty exciting," Callis told DNAinfo.com New York in her first
interview, at the city's Office of Emergency Management headquarters
in Downtown Brooklyn.

Callis, 30, who lives in Westchester, grew up in a deaf family, and
has been interpreting for her mom and three deaf siblings since she
was a child. She now works as a professional American Sign Language
(ASL) interpreter, signing for schools, hospitals, businesses — and
now for the mayor.

Callis said that her role is to interpret the mayor's message as
faithfully as possible — which means presenting the good along with
the bad.

"If he stutters, if he messes up a sentence, you’re going to see me
stuttering, and you’re going to see me messing up the sentence," she
said. "Because the point of interpreting is to render the message
faithfully, and that's what I have to do."

When she's interpreting, Callis mouths out words as well as signs them
to reach the widest spectrum of the deaf and hearing-impaired
community — including those who can't read lips and depend on the
pictures she creates.

“As you can see from when I’m interpreting, you see the tree falling,
you see the building, you see the crane moving around," she said.
"Because I need to have those pictures for the deaf people that need

The most common misconception Callis has noticed is that people think
she's being too animated, she said. But Callis explained that her
exaggerated facial expressions and larger-than-life gestures are a key
part of getting the message across.

“Hearing people tend to not understand that deaf people need those
facial expressions... they need the body language" to make up for all
of the information that's usually transmitted in our voices when we
speak, Callis said. “If I stand up there with a straight face and just
interpret it, they’re not getting half the message."

And when it comes to the often-prickly mayor, that can mean a lot of
eye rolls and eyebrow raising — especially when he's dealing with the

“When a reporter asks a sarcastic question, you can see it in my face.
I’m like, 'Really — did you just ask that?' Because that’s how the
mayor is reacting in the tone of his voice," she said. "But I’m doing
it on my face."

In addition to all the attention online, Callis said she’s also been
thrilled at the response from deaf New Yorkers grateful to finally
have access to breaking news from the mayor.

“The city is catching up on what they should have been doing a long
time ago," she said. "They’re providing accessibility for people that
don’t necessarily have access to the information.”

Read more: http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20121031/new-york-city/meet-mayor-bloombergs-sign-language-interpreter#ixzz2Az5hsrEA

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