Anaheim Sign Language Interpreter On Translating COVID-19 News On Live TV

Photograph by Emily J. Davis

What’s it like interpreting O.C. press conferences?
I’m used to standing in front of a judge. He or she says three words, and I already know the rest of the paragraph because I’ve been doing this for a hundred years. But I’d never done anything live on television before.

What are the challenges?
There are lots of technical words or phrases that don’t have a direct translation in sign. Like PPE for personal protective equipment. I have to do an expansion, signing “masks, gloves, gowns, sanitizers.” I’m constantly thinking of these things: word meanings, sign choices, and (whether) I have enough time to slip in that quick explanation.

Are you worried at all for your own safety?
Not only me, but everyone in the press conference room has a sense of, we are now in a closed environment. We try our best to distance. I take precautions. I’m in that over-65 category—I’m 70—so I don’t take it lightly. At the same time, there’s this internal responsibility. I mean how are deaf people going to know about this if somebody isn’t relaying it to them?

On a different note, you once interpreted for President Reagan. What was that like?
First of all (laughs), there was social distancing then, too. I was standing next to the podium, and the Secret Service decides, nah, too close. Two of them placed themselves between me and the president. I’d set a water bottle on the floor and every time I leaned down to get it, so did they. It was funny and scary at the same time. I was afraid to make a wrong move!

Watch recorded sessions of Seshie’s interpreted news conferences on her website,

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