On Tuesday, Mayor Bynum received a formal letter from Oklahoma Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf that lauded the City for its use of sign language interpretation in its COVID-19 press conferences.
At one point, the letter states, “Many Deaf community members outside Tulsa in suburban and rural areas tuned in to the City of Tulsa press conferences because they could count on the interpreter being provided.”
To date, the City has held more than 20 press conferences in relation to the local COVID-19 response, all of which included deaf interpretation services. The City and the Tulsa Health Department use deaf interpretation services from TSHA, a United Way member agency.
For those who might not know, there are two interpreters at each press conference: a deaf interpreter and a hearing interpreter. The deaf interpreter, Glenna Cooper, is who you would normally see signing on TV. The hearing interpreter, normally KT Laughlin, signs to Glenna. Two interpreters are needed because the deaf interpreter takes what the hearing interpreter says and makes it into a more conversational form of sign language for those watching at home.
“During an emergency, it’s critical that we try to eliminate language barriers as much as possible so residents have access to information that will help protect themselves and their families,” said Michelle Brooks, Communications Director for the City of Tulsa. “Not all Tulsans speak English as their first language - we have residents whose first language is Spanish, Zomi or Burmese or we have residents that are deaf or hard of hearing. As a City, it is our responsibility to provide language access so all Tulsans receive life-saving information.”
Along with the information TSHA provides to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community, Zomi, Burmese and Spanish translations are made available on the City’s Facebook and YouTube pages following each news conference. Viewers have watched these videos more than 1 million times since the onset of the COVID-19 press conferences. Each community reports others outside of Tulsa tune into the City of Tulsa updates because they know they can count on translations made available in their language.
While the City of Tulsa tries to translate important documents whenever possible, the City’s website, www.cityoftulsa.org, has a tool to help with translation assistance for any page. Website visitors can click the drop down menu on any page that says, “Select Language,” and choose from one of more than 100 different languages.