Pre-Recorded Interpreting With Port Authority

When it was decided that plans to expand the world’s busiest bus terminal would be shared through virtual public scoping meetings, the overseeing agency – the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey - made sure the Deaf community would have access to the information by embedding American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation into the meeting’s video.

Sarah Hafer, American Sign Language Interpreter Recruiter, Evaluator and in-house ASL interpreter for ASLI, Inc., and a team of certified interpreters, provided sign language interpretation so the Deaf community would be informed about the proposal’s plans for Enhanced Build-In Place Alternatives. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) Bus Terminal Replacement Project includes a modern and sustainable facility with a new main bus terminal to increase capacity while adding more than three acres of green space.

The meetings not only provide information but are also an opportunity for public comment. With a large Deaf community residing in New York and New Jersey, the inclusion of sign language interpretation is a vital link for communication.

“Initially the Port Authority Bus Terminal planning team was not familiar with how interpreting their pre-recorded spoken English script - spoken in a fast cadence - into American Sign Language would end up being unintelligible to Deaf New Yorker and New Jersey residents,” Hafer explained. “The team at ASLI suggested that they post my original interpreted recording on their website along with another one in a slower pace for any ASL signers wishing to take time to thoroughly understand what was being discussed. The PABT team agreed, which I think is a great solution for everyone involved.”

Hafer went on to explain a common myth about American Sign Language and the connection to this project. “It is tremendously important that these meetings are interpreted into American Sign Language because English is a second language for many Deaf people, with ASL being the primary language. In addition, many Deaf people come to New York as immigrants - and they learn American Sign Language first before being able to read in English. If closed captioning were the only service provided by the Port Authority, many Deaf New Yorkers still wouldn’t be able to understand the content. Deaf immigrants most often get assistance from other Deaf folks who are ASL users as opposed to getting help from a hearing person who is a non-signer and would communicate with them in written English.”

Hafer has personal insight into the Deaf community. She was born deaf and has many Deaf family members. Within her extended family, there are ten sign language interpreters spanning five generations. “I grew up watching sign language interpretation since some of my family members are CODAS (children of Deaf adults) and others have Deaf grandparents, Deaf siblings, etc. However, I never thought I could eventually be an interpreter myself. Deaf interpreters were nonexistent when I was growing up, although there were a few across the country. It wasn’t until many years later that I would learn there was a certification for Deaf interpreters, and I knew that was the profession meant for me.”

Interpreting for the New York bus terminal expansion planning meetings is just one of the many important projects that Hafer works on as an in-house sign language interpreter for ASLI, Inc. But this sign language interpretation project will have a direct positive impact on the Deaf community who plan to use the updated bus terminal for the near future.



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