The community with hearing and speech disabilities is informed daily about the pandemic
When Neil Cordova interprets Spanish into American Sign Language during the Los Angeles County press conferences on the topic of coronavirus, he thinks of his hearing and speech-impaired community friends who taught him sign language. .
"I always have them on my mind. Their faces come out while I do my best to interpret, because I know they depend on this information, "he says.
Day by day, for an hour or more, Neil is a key figure at Los Angeles County COVID-19 Emergency Operations Center press conferences, where health authorities and supervisors update the community on the progress of the pandemic.
With hand gestures, shapes and facial expressions, Neil reveals the most relevant facts of the coronavirus.
"We help this community that needs a lot of support," says Neil, who by interpreting signs complies with the need for communication between deaf and hearing people.
It is estimated that in Los Angeles County, the community with hearing and speech disabilities is around 900,000 people.
Neil, 34, is the son of immigrant parents from El Salvador. He was born in the city of Los Angeles, but grew up in Commerce, a city in the south of the county.
She has been a sign language interpreter since the summer of 2008. “I had deaf friends, and I learned from them. I was also at school learning this language. At that time a license was not required to work, "he recalls.
His first job was offered by the company Hands On Video Relay after passing the sign and Spanish exams.
Currently, he works for several companies that hire him to perform at different events. Sign language interpreters can work in the legal, business, education, medical, religious, cultural and social fields.
"One night before the press conferences on the coronavirus began, they called me to offer me this opportunity because they had no one who spoke Spanish and could interpret in signs," he says.
Since then, he has not missed a press conference on COVID-19.
"Yes, my work has come down, but not much. Before the coronavirus, he worked about 20 hours a week; now I get about 12 or 14 hours"
Far from being excited when interpreting critical information about the number of people infected and killed by the coronavirus in Los Angeles County, he feels sad because the numbers – he says – are very large.
"There is a lot of pressure because the information we are interpreting is life or death. But there is a community of people who depend on me, and that forces me to be as clear and precise as I can. ”
Neil reveals that he chose a sign language interpreter career because his deaf Latino friends in Los Angeles told him there was a need for more trilingual, English, Spanish, and sign interpreters. He interprets in both English and Spanish signs.
"I wanted to use what I learned from my friends to help the deaf community as best I could."
Among this population, he explains, there are different levels of disability. For example, there are people who have become deaf as elderly people. “I like to tell them that even when they don't know English they can learn American Sign Language. There are different organizations like Deaf Latinos y Familias Organization, Council de Manos and California Manos del Corazón that can help them learn American Sign Language. ”