Before the novel coronavirus pandemic began, not many people in the state had heard of American Sign Language interpreter and University of Southern Maine professor Dr. Regan Thibodeau.
But after daily press conferences during which Thibodeau, who is deaf herself, translates what Maine Center for Disease Control Director Dr. Nirav Shah is saying about coronavirus for the state’s deaf community, she is no longer little known. Her expressive facial expressions and dynamic body language, which convey meaning in American Sign Language, have made the 41-year-old from Windham something of a bright spot in an otherwise difficult situation.
Thibodeau, a native user of ASL who was born deaf, is taking it all in stride.
“I imagine for some people, it’s disorienting, because it’s a language they don’t know or understand,” she said Wednesday.
She hopes that over time, the public will get used to it, which is what happened about 15 years ago in Massachusetts when that state began using a Certified Deaf Interpreter — an ASL interpreter who is deaf, not hearing — for press conferences.