:: SW Iowa News | ON THE JOB: Interpreter for the deaf defines ‘hands-on work’ ::

SW Iowa News – ON THE JOB: Interpreter for the deaf defines ‘hands-on work’

TOM MCMAHON, Staff Writer

Beth Townsend.jpgBeth Townsend’s hands are her livelihood.

As a sign language interpreter, she uses them to help bring information, comfort and sometimes tragedy to hundreds of metro area and southwest Iowa deaf people.

Townsend’s hands sometimes move even as she speaks to people who can hear. She unconsciously signs right along with her words. She looks tired and says she is “caffienated,” having spent much of the previous night at a hospital emergency room bridging the information gap between medical personnel and a deaf client.

But her big smile and enthusiasm confirm Townsend’s words: “I absolutely love my job. I can’t imagine anything better.”

The day after her late E.R. experience, Townsend accompanied a client to a doctor appointment and stood in front of a college class, helping a deaf student “hear” the instructor’s lessons. Part of her job satisfaction stems from an appreciation for those she serves.

“I have such a respect for them,” she said. “I cannot imagine having someone in my personal business all the time.”

And it can get very personal.

Sign language interpreters can be found at births and deaths. They might have to tell a client he has cancer or sign an arrested person her Miranda Rights. They bring good news and bad, using their hands to convey the message. From courtrooms to classrooms to job sites, interpreters go where they are needed. Sometimes it’s fun; sometimes gut-wrenching. Continue

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