Interpreter sparks controversy in deaf community - 13abc.com Toledo (OH) News, Weather and Sports

Interpreter sparks controversy in deaf community

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As the world mourns the loss of Nelson Mandela, people are noticing the man signing at his memorial.

He's being called a fake.  Deaf advocates say he was not signing and instead just making meaningless gestures.

"They were literally left out," Grace Lombard, a local deaf woman told 13abc.

Lombard relies on professional interpreters to understand what speakers are saying at different events.

She says learning the interpreter from the memorial may be a fraud is very upsetting.

"It's sad because the deaf individuals that did show up there didn't get that feeling of being involved in that memorial service," Lombard said.

South African sign language is different than American sign language, so she says she can't tell for sure whether the man is a fake.

However, there are some hints that told her he was not experienced enough to be on the stage.

"All the different countries have similar body language and facial expressions, but this man was not doing it."

Like any other language, when someone is signing they're facial expressions change and they shift their bodies during conversations.

Deaf advocates say, those important elements weren't present in South Africa.

"This is a very emotional ceremony for the South African people and there was no emotion on this man's face," Delta Kimmel, a Deaf Support Specialist and ASL Interpreter, said.

Kimmel works at the Toledo Hearing and Speech Center.  She works to empower the deaf and hard of hearing so they can live more independent and confident lives.

As an interpreter, she's discouraged by what she saw at the memorial.

"It's not a joke," she said.  "It's their equal access that they're entitled to."

Both Lombard and Kimmel hope this controversy will shed light on the importance of professional interpreters and the struggles of the deaf community.

The goal is to make sure no one gets lost in translation.

As far as the interpreter, the South African government is investigating him.

There is no word what, if any, punishment he will face.

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