Real Sign Language Interpretation Is So Cool

This image was removed due to legal reasons.

In response to the Nelson Mandela memorial scandal involving a 'fake interpreter,' a new YouTube page has popped up, aptly called "REAL Interpreter."


Through YouTube videos and a Facebook page, the group hopes to honor Mandela, "while bringing language accessibility to the Deaf community all over the world, just what Mandela would have wanted," according to their website.

"We want this to be a place of community exchange and resources," the site says. "We welcome submissions of speech translations in your country's sign language. Together, we can show the world what REAL sign languages look like."

The uploaded videos currently feature interpretation of American Sign Language (ASL) and International Sign Language (ISL).

Here's one of the videos from their YouTube page.

Deaf people, like other marginalized groups of people, are often left out.

Dr. Keith Cagle, a Deaf professor who teaches ASL interpretation at Gallaudet University said via e-mail that he believes the FCC should require all videos on the Internet to have closed captioning.


"Today, too many videos on the Internet are without closed captioning, which has been frustrating for us because they are excluding us. The FCC has been requiring captioning on all programs in television since the 1990s."

After watching a Real Interpreter video, Dr. Cagle said the interpreter he saw "should have been at the Mandela service in the first place. His signing is clear. I was able to catch nearly all of the message."


For Sheena Cobb, 29, who is Deaf and lives in Nashville, Tennessee, Nelson Mandela was a huge influence in her life. "He did so much for human rights," she said via e-mail. "He inspired me as well as so many others, too. Watching the [accurate] interpreters, like those in the Real Interpreter videos helped me understand what all of the international leaders were saying about such a great man."

But, the use of ASL interpreters does more than just help communicate spoken words for the Deaf and hard of hearing. According to Cobb, "it exposes hearing people to how we communicate and it encourages them to support the Deaf community."


As I've tweeted before, being inclusive and acknowledging diversity isn't about being politically correct. It means living in reality. We live in a pluralistic and diverse world. Exclusion is unfair to those left out and is a disservice to everyone else.

While researching this topic, I found tweet after tweet from the Deaf community asking for transcripts of 'this interview' or a transcript of 'that speech.' In fact, Fusion's own website (which is still in beta and is a work-in-progress) doesn't have closed captioning enabled on videos posted online. This means, if you're Deaf or hard of hearing and either can't lip read or are unable to follow the person speaking, you will be left out.


If you'd like an idea of how that may feel, watch the Real Interpreter video above. There is no volume. So, if you don't understand ISL, you may have to struggle to understand what is being said. It doesn't feel so good, does it?