For Lydia Callis, a professional American Language Interpreter who works in New York City, bridging the gap between the deaf and hearing communities is not just a job but a lifelong passion.
Growing up as an OHCODA (Only Hearing Child of Deaf Adults), Lydia’s first language was ASL which not only allowed her to help her parents in communicating with others, but also made her keenly aware of the many struggles those within the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community face on a daily basis.
“[Growing up] I identified as deaf because inside the home I was deaf, while outside I was mainstreamed into a hearing society,” says Lydia. “[ASL] as my first language as a child, opened up my world in a very visual sense.”
Coming from three generations of Deaf family, Lydia was determined to see through that her dream of bridging the gap between the deaf and hearing communities become a reality. This led her to pursue a career in Interpreting. After graduating from Phoenix College with an Associates Degree in Interpreter Preparation and a Certificate in Deaf Studies, Lydia began her career at a position at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York. After serving the Rochester community for six years, Lydia made the decision to move to New York City where she has worked with various interpreting agencies in the area and is an active member of the Deaf community.
Although her assignments and clientele are incredibly diverse, ranging from interpreting on TV shows like The View and Chopped or interpreting for Mayor Bloomberg during his Hurricane Sandy press conference, Lydia believes that each and every assignment helps her grow both professionally and personally as an interpreter.
Besides her professional endeavors, Lydia is an active participant within the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community where she hopes to eliminate discrimination and oppression of those who are deaf by trying to empower the Deaf community as well as educate them of their rights as well as being an ally of the cause by advocating and education when the opportunity arises.
One way that Lydia is helping to tear down barriers between the Deaf and Hearing community is by being a part of “Access NYC”—which is a program dedicated to providing services and accessibility to deaf and hard of hearing tourists visiting the “Big Apple” and allowing them to have the same experience as any other tourist visiting the city.
Lydia’s is now currently pursuing her RID SC:L Specialized Legal Certification due to the high demand for interpreters in the courts. Lydia hopes that through the certificate, she change how highly underserved those within the deaf community are within the legal system. She also hopes to continue spreading awareness and educating about Deaf culture and help change the current view society holds for the Deaf community. “Every person has an opportunity to be an agent of change,” says Lydia. “We can all help by doing our part.”
For more information on Lydia Callis visit her at www.signlanguagenyc.com.