DES MOINES, Iowa — In one of America’s most uncertain times, American Sign Language interpreter Tailyn Kaster is providing deaf and hard of hearing Iowans with clarity.
“I think it is amazing and definitely what the deaf and hard of hearing community want. They want to have that communication access in their native language,” said Kaster.
Shirley Hampton says it’s a native language the Iowa Association of the Deaf has been using since it was founded in 1881. “It’s quite important to have the interpreter because ASL is the language of deaf people,” Hamptom said.
Without ever meeting a deaf person, Kaster began interpretation courses at Iowa Western Community College and received her bachelor’s degree in interpreting from Columbia College Chicago. “I have been working professionally for 12 years now and I’ve been nationally certified for almost ten years now,” Kaster said.
The Moulton, Iowa, native is now helping keep Iowans safe at Gov. Kim Reynolds’ press conferences as the pandemic continues to grow. “We are helping with the facilitation of communication. If we don’t do a good job, it affects people’s lives and so that’s really impressed on us,” said Kaster.
Interpreters are vital for the deaf community for accurate information. Hampton said, “The captioning isn’t always that useful because it gets so far behind. The interpreter can do that processing much quicker and there are fewer mistakes. With closed captioning, there are almost always mistakes.”
Kaster receives a short briefing beforehand, but everything is interpreted on the spot. “The hardest part is taking in the information and processing it to put it out in another language while I’m still taking in more information,” explained Kaster.
From the governor’s responses to the questions from the reporters, Kaster’s job doesn’t get a break. Kaster said, “It takes a lot of brain power. People always ask me if my hands get tired. No, it’s my brain that gets tired first because there is just a lot going on.”
Similar to the English language, Kaster must keep up with new words that are added constantly to ASL. “There has been a sign that has come out in the deaf community. It’s coronavirus, so that has come about because this has happened.”
Kaster is silent but strong. “I am so glad the governor’s office is providing this. Communication access is a very important part of this whole situation. I hope everyone will keep that in mind,” said Kaster.
Kaster works as an independent contractor but was hired by the governor’s office through Deaf Services Unlimited.