Tuesday, November 3, 2015

3 years ago today

The ASL interpreter for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg began getting serious social media attention two years ago because of her efforts with Super Storm Sandy. The passionate style of Lydia Callis has, according to New York magazine, given "New Yorkers a legitimate reason to smile" Lydia Callis became an internet sensation when videos and gifs of her began circulating. Here is a little background on her:

Age: 30

Home: Westchester, New York

Family: Her mother is deaf and so are her three siblings

Job: ASL interpreter

Education: 2010 alumna of NTID's ASL Interpretation Program

Experience: Worked for RIT as an interpreter on campus for a year after she graduated

Here is a video showing her in action.

Comedian Chelsea Handler took time during her late night talk show on the E! Network to mock Callis, which you can see below. The National Association of the Deaf wrote an open letter to the show asking for an apology "for with the despicable manner in which you mocked American Sign Language (ASL) and the profession of sign language interpreters" because ASL interpreters “served a valuable purpose in communicating the critical and urgent information during an emergency to everyone including those who are deaf and hard of hearing.” The skit was a “totally offensive mockery of American Sign Language.”

The attention reached a peak on November 3, 2012, when NBC's Saturday Night Live offered its take on the expressive sign language interpreter. SNL newcomer Cecily Strong imitated Callis, followed by Nasim Pedrad who pretended to be New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s signer. The skit (which you can see below) did not sit well with Marlee Matlin. Instead of funny, the Oscar winning actress says it was just "dumb". Matlin wrote, "Millions of deaf people use sign (language). Why poke fun/fake it? Poke fun at ME but not the language. Sign is not mime; it is a legit language... I don't mind fun poked at me, as I poke back. But at the language, that millions use? It feels childish and insulting. Deaf people HAVE a sense of humor... But faking signs that we use isn't the same. Imagine if a show started making fun of Spanish (using fake Spanish) or Japanese. Do you think they'd actually get away with it? Uh, no..." See the video below.


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