'Rock star' sign language interpreter not new to spotlight - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

'Rock star' sign language interpreter not new to spotlight

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(Source: WIS) (Source: WIS)

As Hurricane Matthew took aim at the Palmetto State, certified deaf interpreter Jason Hurdich stood next to Gov. Nikki Haley communicating the crisis as only he could.

He'd been asked to be there by the deaf services coordinator for the state Department of Vocational Rehabilitation.

RELATED: See photos of Hurricane Matthew damage from around the Midlands.

“She called me to come up for the press conference,” he said through sign language, “because I’m deaf and I can accommodate to the deaf needs, the culture, the language, and meet the needs best for the deaf community.”

Hurdich worked with an off-camera hearing interpreter who translated critical information from Haley and other state leaders. And his animated facial and hand gestures drew instant adoration from viewers of all kinds including from Haley.

“Well, honestly, I’m just doing my job,” Hurdich said. “The facial expressions is part of sign language grammar linguistics and that is part of it is so critical to the language, just like with the spoken language. You hear the information and the volume rising and so, you see those same features on my face.”

Hurdich admitted he was initially nervous with all the cameras on the first day, but he was prepared. Now, he’s become a popular figure no matter where he goes.

“It happens,” Hurdich said. “As a matter of fact, last Sunday, I went to the USC football game just to go enjoy the game. You know, I like football. I’m a football fan. And so, I didn’t expect so many people coming up and hollering at me and saying, ‘Hey, I saw you on TV. Oh my gosh! It’s the man!’ It was like, ‘Okay.’ It was a little bit inspiring, but at the same time, I’m like the purpose is for the deaf community to have the information the best way possible.”

Hurdich, however, is no stranger to public attention. He’s interpreted for President Barack Obama and done the national anthem at Orlando Magic basketball games. 

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