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Featured In Houston Chronicle: Jo Rose Benfield Interprets Music for Deaf, Hard of Hearing

Jo wears a maroon top as she signs the lyrics of the artist blurred behind her on stage. Her eyes are closed as she processes the song.
Credit: John Gusky of KVUE-TV

She came to fame after competing alongside Amber Galloway in a sign-language rap battle with Wiz Khalifa on ABC's 'Jimmy Kimmel Live'

In July, the country celebrated a significant milestone — the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The passage of the civil rights law marks a defining moment in history. Yet, with the new decade, a call to build a more inclusive future has risen to the forefront, bringing to light the considerable amount of work that still needs to be done in dissolving barriers that stand in the way of equal opportunity.

Although American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters have become a familiar presence at local and state-level press conferences in recent months, the White House has failed to provide the same access during its coronavirus task force briefings, leading the National Association of the Deaf and five Americans who are deaf to file a lawsuit in early August.

Unfortunately, this is not the only conversation in which the deaf community continues to be excluded due to lack of adequate services. Live — or virtual, in today’s context — concerts are another, but music interpreters like Jo Rose Benfield are striving to change that.

“Deaf and hard-of-hearing people deserve the same access as hearing people. It is a basic human right,” said Benfield, who serves as the director of the Gallaudet University Regional Center-South in Austin. “Those who care about their audience should care about each and every person they want to reach and connect with, regardless of their disability, their race, their gender, their every fiber of being.”



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