(BRADENTON, Fla.) — Video of a man incorrectly interpreting a message from Florida evacuation officials in sign language has prompted harsh criticism from the deaf community.
Officials for the Manatee County Emergency Operations Center delivered an evacuation briefing to residents on Friday at 12 p.m. ET as a man standing next to the podium attempted to sign the message for deaf viewers, but misinterpreted officials’ words.
Manatee County Marine Rescue Chief Joe Westerman confirmed to ABC News that Marshall Greene, a current lifeguard for the county, was the man who attempted to interpret Friday’s briefing.
VisCom, a professional sign language interpreting service that serves southwest and central Florida, told ABC News that Manatee County is a regular vendor of theirs for a variety of services with the sheriff’s department and the courts. However, VisCom owner Charlene McCarthy told ABC News that no one from Manatee County reached out to request an interpreter ahead of that Friday briefing.
Additionally, McCarthy said she called the Manatee County Emergency Management team to express her disappointment after watching the video, adding that her company was available to accommodate them up for future press conferences as early as the next morning, but said the office never followed up to book an official interpreter.
VisCom said the man in question is not fluent in American Sign Language (ASL), alleging that, “[He] definitely doesn’t have the skill set to function in the role of an interpreter,” McCarthy said.
The Daily Moth, a deaf news agency that delivers videos using ASL, reported on the video, criticizing officials for not using a certified interpreter.
Alex Abenchuchan, The Daily Moth’s deaf host, confirmed in his own report that Greene’s interpretations were incorrect, writing in a response to the incident on Facebook that allegedly Greene only knows “some signs because of a deaf sibling.”
The Manatee County Facebook page showed other press conferences after Friday’s noon briefing that no longer included an interpreter.
Manatee County Emergency Operations did not immediately respond to ABC News’s request for comment as they continue working on hurricane efforts. Greene did not respond to ABC News’ request for comment.
In 2013, a “fake” sign language interpreter stood next to former President Barack Obama on stage during Nelson Mandela’s memorial service, later raising questions over Secret Service security concerns.
The South African government and the interpreter himself, Thamsanqa Jantjie, claimed he had a schizophrenic break down that caused him to see illusions during the event, impacting his attempted signing.
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