It’s easy for Hinds Community College instructor Sandra Hester to recognize the need for hearing-impaired people to get accurate information in times of crisis, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.

Sandra Hester, seated, interprets in American Sign Language a press conference at the University of Mississippi Medical Center where officials updated the situation with the coronavirus in Mississippi. At the podium is Marc Rolph, executive director of communications for UMMC, which posted this photo to its Facebook page.

“Deaf people range across a broad spectrum of people, from the highly-educated to those who are not,” Hester said. “When it’s a situation like this, with it life or death, they need accuracy. They need something that’s not haphazard.”

Hester, of Edwards, lead instructor for the interpreter training technology program, has put that into practice in the weeks since the crisis became real for all Mississippians. She has interpreted three press conferences at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, mainly those featuring officials with the Mississippi State Department of Health relating vital information.

She helps the hospital coordinate a team of three interpreters for press conferences and other events, a group that includes herself. When the virus became serious in Mississippi, she was pressed into service.

“One interpreter couldn’t do them because of an underlying auto-immune condition, and another was interpreting medical visits with deaf people who needed it,” she said. “I was free to do it, so I’ve put in a lot of time with that and helping my adjunct instructor get her American Sign Language classes put online, plus the six classes I teach.”

Relating the most important part of daily news updates and tips on the coronavirus to those with hearing impairments is every bit a translation from one language to another.

“Unfortunately, especially among older deaf people, many of them didn’t get the best education,” she said. “They learned a skill, worked all their lives, but their language is different from English. ASL is not English – it’s a totally different language.”

Hester has taught at Hinds since 2005 after a 10-year period in private practice. Previously, she was an interpreter at Hinds for seven years, from 1988 to 1995.

Did you enjoy this article?

Share with your family and friends!