Some things are too important not to double check. If you’re leaving on vacation, you check you’ve got your passport. If you’re about to perform a triple-bypass surgery, you confirm that you’ve got all the right equipment and expertise to hand. If ladies and gentlemen, you’re warning people to get out the way of Hurricane Irma, you make sure your sign language interpreter knows sign language.
As first reported by AL.com during one of the official televised briefings about the incoming hurricane, an interpreter warned people about “pizza” and “monsters” rather than anything vaguely meteorological. At one point, he said “help you at that time to use bear big,” implying that only a grizzly would save you from the wrath of Irma.
Phrases like “on that news test evacuate, make a pray” were not particularly helpful to deaf people who probably wondered if the state authorities had simply lost their minds. “Pizza want you are need be bear monster” certainly didn’t help much either.
“Dog cat. Baby. Child want don’t one need,” he added. “Toys for who Mexican. One lunch. Lucky penny for higher. Twenty left bear monster you be.” Oh, boy. Someone’s in trouble.
Apparently, the interpreter was one Marshall Greene, a lifeguard in Manatee County, Florida. What reportedly happened was that a qualified signer wasn’t available, so officials looked for someone who could vaguely sign, in preference to not having anyone sign at all.
Greene has a brother who is deaf, so has a rudimentary understanding of sign language. Clearly, that understanding wasn’t good enough, something the authorities really should have looked in to.
As amusing as it is to watch, this was actually a fairly dangerous thing for both Greene and the authorities to engage in. The press conference was about mandatory evacuations from parts of the country, with warnings that those left behind would face the potentially life-threatening wrath of Hurricane Irma.
Although it was all over the news and social media, there may have been some deaf people who didn’t get the message about the evacuation thanks to this error, and they might have been left behind.
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