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Lost in Translation: Sign Language Interpretation and Weather Service Messages

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March 2013 - The Wireless RERC submitted recommendations to the National Weather Service (NWS) regarding their Experimental Winter Hazards Simplification Demonstration.  The Demonstration provided an opportunity to compare text from watch, warning and advisory messages for winter weather hazards with proposed alternatives. As part of the Weather-Ready Nation initiative, the NWS sought to simplify the language to ensure the messages are clear and actionable.  To that end, the Wireless RERC recommended the NWS to have the proposed language vetted by people whose primary language is American Sign Language (ASL). According to participants in field trials conducted by the Wireless RERC, it is preferable to accommodate deaf individuals who utilize ASL as their primary language with ASL interpretation of written or spoken English.  Since national, state and local alerting systems rely on the NWS for weather related emergency information and use identical language which may be translated by sign language interpreters, it is critical that the NWS language be clear and remove any jargon, truncated text or idiomatic expressions.

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The Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center for Wireless Technologies is sponsored by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under grant number 90RE5007-01-00. The opinions contained in this website are those of the Wireless RERC and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services or NIDILRR.