“People do want to take their picture with me, they’ll come up and be like, can I take a selfie with you?” American Sign Language interpreter David Cowan said when GPB’s Brenda Waters asked Cowan if he was somewhat of a superstar.

An ASL interpreter for 37 years, Cowan started his work at the Georgia Capitol with the previous Gov. Nathan Deal. But the coronavirus pandemic prompted more work for Cowan.

The National Association of the Deaf said the use of masks blocked some people's ability to read lips, making it difficult for the deaf community to know the latest about the pandemic. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communications Disorders (NIDCD) there are nearly 35 million adults who live with some form of hearing disabilities in the U.S.

The Americans with Disabilities Act requires that state and local governments communicate effectively with people who have disabilities, which can include a sign language interpreter, real-time captioning, or a printed script of the speech. 

Cowan said that Georgia has done well in this regard. He added that he is proud that other states were looking at Georgia as a model in how efficiently and quickly it got the information out to the public regarding the coronavirus.

When asked about the challenges with his work, Cowan said it’s challenging when he does not know what to expect in a news conference.

“I think the biggest challenge is not knowing exactly what is being discussed," he said. "It helps a lot if they let us know what they are going to talk about: if we have numbers, if we have what’s happening with the state or even a list of names of persons that they are going to mention.”


ASL Interpreter, David Cowan, explains why two interpreters are needed when he interprets news conferences at the Capitol as well as at other events. 

Credit: GPB Lawmakers

For more on the conversation with ASL interpreter David Cowan, tune into  GPB at 7 p.m Wednesday for a one-hour Sine Die special Lawmakers final show of the session.