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Getting the message out

Virginia Moore provides sign language and joy for governor’s COVID-19 updates

As Gov. Andy Beshear keeps all Kentuckians informed about COVID-19, Virginia Moore, the executive director of Kentucky’s Commission on the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, stands 6 feet from him, ensuring the deaf and hard of hearing community receives the same information in a timely manner. 

Appearing each evening on television stations and social media across the commonwealth, Moore has become a familiar feature of Beshear’s news conferences. She communicates with skill, authenticity and compassion. “An interpreter is only as good as the person they are signing for,” says Moore. “Our governor portrays a calm and confident stance and I also try to portray calmness, humor and kindness in everything I do.” 

The youngest of five children born to deaf parents, Moore has two deaf siblings and numerous nieces and nephews with hearing loss. She also is a certified American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter. “ASL is my first language. Being raised in a strong deaf family has shaped my professional life and also taught me about deaf culture,” she says.

With nearly 700,000 Kentuckians who are deaf or have partial hearing loss, there currently is a shortage of qualified interpreters throughout the state. Moore encourages anyone interested in becoming an interpreter to research training opportunities and to become certified. “Effective interpreting takes years of practice to attain and is not achieved by taking a few classes,” she says. “It also includes strong ethics and good decision making.” 

Moore notes that the No. 1 and No. 2 disabilities military veterans are returning home with are hearing loss and tinnitus; and one in five teenagers will experience hearing loss in their lifetime. (For more information on these and other statistics, check out the fact sheets at www.kcdhh.ky.gov/ois/demographics.html.)

Moore has been the Commission on the Deaf and Hard of Hearing’s executive director for 10 years. She also has worked with Kentucky’s Department of Emergency Management Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency during floods, ice storms, earthquakes and tornadoes. 

“My primary focus and civic responsibility is providing equitable access and effective communication for all deaf and hard of hearing Kentuckians,” she says.

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