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Sign language interpreter translates life-saving information without saying a word

Posted at 12:12 AM, Apr 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-25 00:12:16-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Laura Hill is a familiar face in Virginia standing front and center during the pandemic, delivering potentially life-saving information without ever uttering a word.

“Oh, it is very important. If there was no communication I don’t know where the deaf would be right now," Hill said.

The Midlothian woman lets her hands do the talking, using sign language to translate information to the deaf community.

“Honestly, I never dreamed that this would be something I would have the opportunity to do because I’m just a regular person," Hill said.

Laura is Governor Northam's official signer, and appears by his side every press conference at the State Capitol.

“One thing that I’ve learned is breathe and relax and focus on the message and content to the best of my abilities," she said.

It's a pressured filled position she never expected, but didn't hesitate when the call came.

“That is one thing that when this hit the deaf needed to understand how dangerous covid-19 is," Hill said.

Laura is fluent in American Sign Language. In fact, the 49-year-old teaches signing at J. Sergeant Reynolds Community College.

But Laura doesn't just use signing professionally. It's her primary form of communicating.

“I’ve been deaf since I was born," she expained.

ASL serves her well. Laura's parents, husband and daughter are deaf. Her son can hear, but he too knows sign language. The Texas native learned to sign in her teens, and made such an impression that she earned the title Ms. Deaf Texas.

“Deaf people can do anything. There aren’t barriers to what a deaf person can do. Aside from the ability to hear.”

Laura works in tandem with fellow signer Liz Leitch during press conferences. Liz interprets what Governor Northam says, and Laura signs it for all Virginians to see.

“I am thrilled that we have a deaf interpreter in the state of Virginia. I am so happy to be a part of that team," Leitch said. “A native signer will always be able to add to the connection and community.”

“We’re able to understand each other," Hill explained. "We’re not worried about miscommunication.”

No one knows how long her new role will last, but Hill promises to be the bridge for others like her all while silently lending a hand.

“I’ve been able to encourage them on their journey and if seeing me succeed helps them that is fantastic for them to know that there aren’t any limits. That a deaf person can do this job.”

If you know of someone with an interesting story, email Greg McQuade at gmcquade@wtvr.com

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