County leaders told WFLA they were “in a pinch” and needed to find a sign language interpreter fast, so they turned to Marshall Greene, a lifeguard for the county’s marine rescue unit, who had a deaf older brother.
But instead of conveying the appropriate message, Greene signed incoherent nonsense like, “Help you at that time too use bear big,” according to the Bradenton Herald.
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Leaders for the deaf community expressed shock over how Manatee County had handled the situation.
The former president of the National Association of the Deaf Chris Wagner spoke with WFLA through an interpreter to say, “It was obvious to me he wasn’t a professional interpreter. I was totally shocked.”
“Everybody was talking about it on social media, everyone was shocked, asking leaders in the deaf community to do something about it,” Wagner continued.
Charlene McCarthy, the owner of VisCom, a company which provides interpreters for Manatee County, also told WFLA that “it was horribly unnerving for me to watch that, knowing I could provide a qualified interpreter.”
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Social media users have likewise been shocked and outraged.
“This isn’t funny,” wrote one Twitter user. “Either you know ASL or you don’t. Please don’t put Deaf lives in danger because you’re clueless.
In a comment under Manatee County’s original Facebook post of the video, one user wrote: “You should be ASHAMED of yourselves for not having a real interpreter for the deaf there! This person doesn’t know even BASIC SIGN LANGUAGE! WAY TO PUT DEAF LIVES IN DANGER!!!!”
“THAT IS NOT AN INTERPRETER. There’s zero message coming through to ASL USERS. Please value the information and the receivers enough to get a professional,” another Facebook user commented.
Greene’s family however maintain that their son just did what we he was supposed to do.
“He can’t expect to communicate something he doesn’t know,” Greene’s father told WFLA.
The deaf community has also asked for an apology, according to CBS New York.