How sign language and real-time captioning are including Deaf and hard-of-hearing Nova Scotians in news on COVID-19

Every day at about 3pm, Nova Scotians can watch Premier Stephen McNeil and chief public health officer Dr. Robert Strang give an update on the COVID-19 crisis. But there’s another face that’s part of these daily conferences. Richard Martell is the Deaf Interpreter you can see in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen.

There are actually two interpreters at each conference. Behind the scenes is Debbie Johnson, who is hearing. She listens to McNeil and Strang and interprets what they’re saying. She sits in a chair not far from the desk where McNeil and Strang sit, and in between lights and a camera focused on Martell. Martell takes what Johnson signs and interprets that message to viewers who are Deaf. Johnson signs in American Sign Language (ASL) while Martell uses a combination of American Sign Language and Maritime Sign Language (MSL), sort of a regional dialect of ASL, into a language that is culturally and linguistically appropriate for the audience.