CNN Opinion: Twista ASL interpreter’s viral moment misses the point

Opinion by Lilit Marcus
Aug 23, 2019

Editor’s Note: Lilit Marcus is a CODA (Child of Deaf Adults), author, and travel editor at Deaf with a capital D is often used to specify the active, proud Deaf community, as opposed to the lowercase-d deaf which simply indicates a person with hearing loss.The views expressed here are hers.

(CNN) – This week, a video of American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter Amber Galloway Gallego working alongside rapper Twista, described by The Root as “the fastest rapping MC in the world,” went viral.

Thousands of people shared the video of Gallego’s interpreting and praised her for her speed and accuracy.

While I’m sure anybody would be thrilled to have total strangers congratulating them on their work performance, I have just one question for the folks going wild over Gallego’s interpreting — do you understand anything the signer is saying? If the answer is no, I want you to think before you share that video, especially if you’re doing it to feel more engaged with the Deaf community.

Gallego, who is hard of hearing herself, is known as an interpreter who works often with rap and hip-hop musicians, and a self-professed ally in the Deaf community, but she’s hardly the first interpreter to go viral. There’s clearly just something about these videos that fascinates or excites people.

But when you treat other languages like fun, exotic modes of performance instead of like utilities, you are praising people who interpret for the deaf — while ignoring the deaf. Too many hearing people see signing as performance art instead of a living, breathing language that many people use to communicate basic thoughts and needs every single day.

Centering hearing people in Deaf experiences and presenting ASL as amusement for hearing concert-goers instead of as a mode of communication for the Deaf does a huge disservice to interpreters and their profession. For the dozens of profiles and hot takes written about Gallego, there are no such accompanying stories about discrimination, lack of access, and other real-time issues facing the deaf community.

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The Hospital ER Script


(ASLized article in video here, article and link below.)


You Probably Should Know: The Hospital ER Script.

By: uncledalesrules
Aug. 22, 2019

Last night there was a town hall meeting at the Deaf Center discussing the failure or refusal of hospitals to give primary consideration to the the patient who is Deaf when they request a Live In-Person Interpreter and are told they have to use VRI or get nothing at all. I was in the audience and suggested a script.


Several people who are Deaf in the town hall asked, “why should we have to go through all that? Shouldn’t they just respect our request?”


Yes, of course they should. But if they did or would there would be no need for this town hall meeting. They will not change just because the Deaf community asks. They will only change if they are forced to. This script will help build a factual basis for future lawsuits which is the only thing hospitals will respond to.




(If you are in too much pain or stress whomever is with you can follow this script for you)


I require a live in-person ASL Interpreter for effective communication.


Let’s use VRI until we can get an interpreter here for you.


VRI is not effective for me because (pick the one that fits):


I am in pain/stress/destress and I can’t follow the three dimensional language of ASL on a two dimensional screen;


I’m not ordering a pizza, I’m trying to get medical care;


The screen is too small;


The picture keeps freezing;


Your staff does not know how to hook it up;


The VRI Interpreters can’t see or hear what is going on off screen and so I miss half the message;


My eye-sight is not good enough to see ASL on a VRI screen; or,


Your reason here.


Please make a note of the reason that VRI is not effective for me in my medical records so that we don’t have to have this discussion every time I come to the hospital.


But it’s after 5/it’s the weekend and there are no live Interpreters available.


That is not true. Interpreter referral agencies are open 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Please make a note of that in my medical record so I don’t have to explain this every time I come to the hospital.


VRI is the same as a live interpreter.


It is not. VRI and Live In-Person Interpreters are listed as separate accommodations under federal law. The Affordable Care Act in Section 1557 says that Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act requires you to give primary consideration to the specific accommodation I request and I request a Live In-Person Interpreter. Please make a note of that in my medical file so I will not have to have this conversation every time I come the hospital.


Well, it could take a long time for the interpreter to get here so let try VRI until then.


I will use VRI until the Live In-Person Interpreter gets here if AND ONLY IF you provide me with the following information:


  1. The name of the hospital staff person who requested the interpreter on my behalf;


  1. The exact time that staff person called to request the interpreter for me;


  1. The name of the agency the hospital staff person called to request an interpreter for me;


  1. The name of the specific person the hospital staff person spoke to at that agency to request an interpreter for me; and,


  1. The time the agency estimates the interpreter will arrive at this hospital.


Provide that to me in writing and make a note of it in my medical file and I will use VRI until the interpreter arrives.


Why do you need to know all of that?


Because I need to know who has ownership of my request.


We are not allowed to give you that information.


Yes you are. None of it is protected by law. If you refuse to give me the information I request please provide me with the specific law that forbids it and also make a note in my medical record that I requested it and you refused to provide it.


We don’t put things like that in medical records.


You put all kinds of things in medical records and this is my medical record and you will put whatever I tell you to put in it.


There is not an interpreter available.


I will now call the interpreter referral agency that you told me the hospital called and verify the time you called and that there is no interpreter available. If there is in fact no interpreter available I will require you to call a different referral agency. Make a note of my request in my medical records.


We can’t call another agency, we only contract with this one.


Who this hospital does and does not contract with is not my problem. I am the patient and have a right to effective and if the hospital cannot provide it with the agency it uses it needs to contract with a different agency. Make a note of that in my medical records.


Do that each and every time.


If they refuse to document it then as soon as possible make a request by email to the hospital’s Office of Customer Service or Risk Management Officer that you made the request I explained above and that your nurse/doctor refused to document it in your record. Use the names of the specific people you spoke to as often as possible.


One last point, and I can’t stress this enough. Never say “I prefer a Live In Person interpreter” or “I don’t want VRI” or “I don’t like VRI.” That says to the hearing people that is just a choice you are making. The magic words are, “I need” or “I require a Live In Person Interpreter for effective communication (that comes right from the law).


Meet the Author: Sofia Seitchik

In commemoration of International Week of the Deaf, join us as we meet Author Sofia Seitchik who will share her experiences writing and publishing her book “The Light of Deaf Women: Inspirational Stories from Visionaries, Artists, Founders and Entrepreneurs.” In addition, meet Deaf Marylanders featured in the book who will also share their stories.
“The Light of Deaf Women: Inspirational Stories from Visionaries, Artists, Founders, and Entrepreneurs” is a book aimed to motivate all kinds of people to go after their dreams, channel their inner artist, take that leap to found an organization, or even to start their own business. The book has over 80 stories of Deaf women with diverse identities, backgrounds, and journeys.
Following the program, the author will sell and sign her books. Light refreshments will be available. This program is co-sponsored by the Maryland Deaf Culture Digital Library.

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Watch a preview of deaf model, actor Nyle DiMarco on ABC’s What Would You Do? premiere

If you’ve ever wondered what a person’s true colors are when no one is watching, look no further than ABC hidden-camera show What Would You Do?

The series returns Friday, Aug. 9 for an all-new season, and this year, they’re kicking it up a notch by introducing a celebrity guest to the equation — the season premiere features Dancing with the Stars and America’s Next Top Model winner Nyle DiMarco.

Read on at