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Indiana ASL Interpreter Busy During Pandemic

Andy Rork

Andy Rork is the American Sign Language interpreter for the Indiana Governor's Office during the Coronavirus Pandemic (Adam Pinsker, WFIU/WTIU News)

In nearly every state and in some municipalities, interpreters are getting lots of air time during the COVID-19 pandemic, translating information from medical professionals and political leaders to the general public.

If you’ve watched any of Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb’s daily press conferences, you’ve probably noticed a sign language interpreter on the upper right hand side of your screen.

“I’ve done the State of the State address, legislative hearings and things like that, but also, but also state agencies that have to have a staff meeting,” American Sign Language interpreter Andy Rork says.

Rork has interpreted vital information from the governor and his cabinet for the hearing-impaired from every news conference since the pandemic began in March.

“I get physically, and emotionally and mentally tired from all that stuff, going for an hour solid, is kind of harder than it looks,” Rork says.

Years of preparation got Rork to the point where he’s able to endure signing during these marathon press conferences. Both his parents are deaf, so he learned how to sign at an early age.

“When I was growing up there wasn’t access to professional interpreting at the time, so as children, more so my sister because she was older, a lot of times we would have to go with my parents to different appointments or events, things like that to interpret for them,” Rork says.

Rork says one of the biggest challenges is processing the information from the news conference in real time, and turning it around into sign language.

“Especially when you’re doing numbers, because there is a rhythm to the way you sign numbers.”

It’s not an issue during the weekly press conferences, but out in public, when people are wearing masks, it’s harder for members of the deaf community to follow along in conversations. Rork says that’s because facial expressions are just as important as hand signals in sign language

“Adjectives and adverbs are here in the mouth area which will emphasize how much or how little, how big or how small.”

When Andy isn’t interpreting for state government he usually signs for college classes and people’s medical appointments.

For the latest news and resources about COVID-19, bookmark our Coronavirus In Indiana page here.

Want to contact your legislators about an issue that matters to you? Find out how to contact your senators and member of Congress here.

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