Area ASL interpreter helping deaf community understand local COVID-19 situation

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WEAU)-- "I love what I do. There are not many people in this world that can say that they are very, very passionate about their job and I'm extremely passionate," said Colleen Cudo, an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter.

Colleen Cudo has been an ASL interpreter for 32 years.

Currently, she works for Mayo Clinic helping meet the needs of deaf patients.

However, these past few weeks she has an additional stop to her day.

The La Crosse County Health Department holds briefings to provide the latest information on the local COVID-19 situation.

Cudo is at every meeting providing interpretation for any deaf viewers tuning in.

"People thought ahead of time to think, 'Oh maybe we should have a sign language interpreter for that population.' They feel included instead of excluded," Cudo said.

Just like other languages, ASL has different dialects and regionalisms-- so having the same interpreter each day allows for consistency.

Cudo says she has heard from members of the deaf community that say having her there to interpret have helped them understand the local impacts of COVID-19.

"She said, 'it's like being able to be a hearing person listening to exactly what's going on for everybody else,' and if we can open that world up, I think we're doing a pretty good job," said Cudo.

The interpreter also says how grateful the deaf community is now that they have a grasp on the local situation.

"One message that I can say on their behalf, and I was told that I could, is thank you," Cudo said. "Thank you for bringing this to life for them and them being included on such an important topic."

Cudo gained an interest in sign language as an eighth grader after her sister took a few college courses in it.

Now that people are ordered to stay home, she thinks it might just be the perfect new hobby for others to learn.

"Anybody looking to learn some sign language-- go for it. Just an easy
'Hello!' or an easy 'How are you?' Just think about the line of communication that you are opening up," Cudo said.