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Interpreters for Deaf Cut Through D.C.’s Political Jargon

By Elizabeth Williamson, The Washington Street Journal
summarized by Caitlin Aurigemma, staff writer

Just as English is constantly adding new words, so is the case for American sign language which has the added difficulty of signing words containing acronyms and jargon that often can stump the most experienced of sign language users. Such is the case with sign language interpreter for the deaf, Travis Painter, whose diverse clientele within Washington D.C. keep him on his toes with their ever expanding vocabulary.

Parker who has worked gigs with a large variety of clients ranging from “court hearings and testimony to political fundraisers and the White House Easter Egg Roll” (Williamson, Wall Street Journal). Though Painter relies on some of the traditional words and teachings of sign language, Painter also incorporates the less traditional use of D.C. specific terms. Such D.C. specific terms that Painter has encountered have included “fiscal cliff’, ‘nuclear option’, and ‘not his first rodeo” among others (Williamson, WSJ). When faced with these sort of interpretation challenges, Painter relies on the golden rule of signing, spelling it out, which has been the case many times for Painter when facing unusually difficult interpretations. Even after spelling words out, certain words don’t fit neatly into sign language as Painter has discovered when he tells Williamson of the time he “signed a form number, F99, which in sign language looks like three “OK!” symbols in a row. Deaf clients sometimes tell him how odd Washington must sound” (WSJ).

For each of his clients, Painter tries to create an interactive and personal experience whether it be him swaying to the music of a song he’s interpreting or making “Mr. Roboto” dance moves when discussing robotics for a client working at NASA.

One such client that Painter has a customized for of communication with is Sheri Unuigbey, a deaf IT specialist at the Internal Revenue Service. After giving Painter on his first day a binder of tax related as well as personal acronyms, both Painter and Uruigbey now communicate with one another in their own unique form of sign language. With every new client and gig, Painter learns more about the intricacies and quirks of working as sign language interpreter in the ever changing Washington D.C. area

Read the original article here.

Follow Elizabeth Williamson on Twitter.

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