NYC’s Most Famous Sign Language Interpreter Advocates for the Deaf

August 26, 2013 | Andy Cush

Lydia Callis, the sign language interpreter who became an overnight, SNL-parodied micro-celebrity after her appearances an Mayor Bloomberg’s post-Sandy emergency briefings, has a new gig: advocating for the city’s 800,000-plus people with hearing disabilities. Callis hopes to parlay her newfound fame into a chance to make NYC a more deaf-friendly city.

To start with, she’s offering tours for the hearing disabled at the 5th Avenue New York Public Library, and lobbying other city institutions she believes could be doing a better job catering to the deaf. ”

According to Callis, her exuberant facial expressions–the source of her citywide notoriety–are par for the course for sign language, which uses gestures and facial movements to convey things for which English speakers would use inflection. “I was like, when is it over? Seriously, when is this going to die down? Wow, people just really don’t know much about the deaf community,” she told the New York Times.

“People truly have a hard time wrapping their heads around it, and that’s when the deaf community suffers,” she said. “People just don’t know. Look how far we came with gay rights — but then we can’t get access for deaf people! It’s 2013. It’s about time.”