Hey Siri

By Annie Choi, Halah Biviji, Ryan Golden, and Kasandra Tapia

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Siri Connor explains her job as an ASL interpreter for a journalism student, Halah Biviji.

Annie Choi
Siri Connor explains her job as an ASL interpreter for a journalism student, Halah Biviji.

Siri, how is the weather today?

Siri is an intelligent personal assistant, part of Apple Inc.’s iOS, watchOS, macOS, and tvOS operating systems. This virtual helper  translates people’s personal requests into binary commands. However, at Long Beach City College, Siri Connor, one of the two Interim Interpreter Coordinators, translates spoken words into sign language.

“Being deaf is having an unseen disability,” Connor said, “We schedule the interpreters, making sure that students have…equal access as their hearing peers.”

As one of the interim coordinators, Connor matches the best available interpreters with the deaf students. However, interpreting has not always been an occupation.

“I grew up signing, I learned to sign when I was eight,” Connor said, “My mom was a teacher aide in a deaf school and she had to learn to sign to teach, so I…just kind of knew it.”

Connor also works at hospitals as the communication between doctors and deaf patients, sometimes delivering difficult news to complete strangers.

“I kind of look at it as windows. I look into windows of people’s private space on a daily basis,” she said, “Some of those windows are good and some of them are bad, so you never know what you’re going to see.”

LBCC student Leonardo Estrada, 23, feels that the LBCC community needs to be more active in supporting deaf students.

“Even me, not being deaf, I have trouble understanding [classes],” said Estrada. “I can’t even imagine someone who is deaf here, they must struggle even more.”

Stephanie Bonales, a Co-Interim Interpreter Coordinator, has also experienced through her work a shortage in the school body’s support. For about fifty deaf students, there are only two interpreters.

“Deaf students should be considered Long Beach City students,” Bonales said. “Whatever is going on on-campus, everyone should pitch in to [help] as opposed to it solely being the responsibility of DSPS.”

Disabled Students Programs and Services (DSPS) is the program where Bonales and Connor work.

Growing up, the deaf students might have been declined services but had no voice to fight back.

“When they transition to a community college we teach them how to advocate for themselves,” Borales said.

Borales mentioned that some professors at the college don’t put captions in the videos they show in class and this causes problems for deaf students. Connor explained that deaf students don’t know how to dream big or empower themselves because they are alone in a world where no one speaks their language.

Connor said, “No one ever bothers to take (them) aside and say ‘Hey. You can do anything you want to do. You just have to set your mind to it. You just have to work hard because deaf can.’”

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