Meet the Utah ASL interpreters working through COVID-19

Coronavirus Updates

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – The American Sign Language interpreters are unsung heroes in COVID-19 pandemic, translating for a community often forgotten. Our ASL interpreting team here have become familiar faces in the governor’s daily press briefings; we have a special team made up of hearing and deaf interpreters who work in tandem. 

Trenton Marsh and Clay Anderson have worked together and advocated for ASL interpretation for years. Marsh is deaf and Anderson is hearing. Jennifer Harvey is also an integral member of the team; she interpreted for both during the above interview. 

Anderson said, “I think one of the hardest things for me and Trenton is our wardrobe. Our wardrobe is not made for this much TV.” 

The pair are good friends and they say that helps tremendously in their work. Marsh describes Anderson as a great dad and a cowboy; Anderson says Marsh is an ‘every rider,’ he rides motorcycles and UTVs and anything else he can. “Trenton and I have been on motorcycle trips together, so that counts,” said Anderson.

The pair have worked to make sure sign language interpretation is available for the vast majority of Utah COVID-19 press conferences and emergency meetings. 

Marsh explained, “People often ask why is captioning not sufficient, my response to that and to you is, have you ever tried to follow something fully by captioning?” Not everything is captioned and they say it’s rarely captioned accurately. 

“In emergency communication, those things are urgent, and the information may not reach the deaf and hard of hearing community until much later, ” Marsh continued, “Another thing to think about is the language barrier. Many people in the deaf community are not proficient in English because it’s a second language so things that are urgent or important, we want to make sure that’s clear and in their native language.”

In the past, ASL interpreters might have been called in for a single day or event, but COVID-19 has created a space for continuous interpretation and a demand from the general public. The pair said that at a recent press conference, there wasn’t an interpreter because of a scheduling issue, and people noticed. Hearing people with no need for an interpreter asked where the ASL interpreter was. 

Marsh said, “It does come with a sense of accomplishment that we’ve done the right thing and we’ve reached out to the right people. It’s really amazing.”

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