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Surfside Sign Language Interpreter Brenda Atkinson Wishes More Could Be Done For Hearing Impaired

MIAMI (CBSMiami) - You may remember Brenda Atkinson from the many Surfside press conferences, standing close to the mayor.

She is one of Miami-Dade County's few certified sign language interpreters.

She talked to CBS4's Hank Tester about her beginnings and hopes more can be done to help the hearing impaired.

"I was asked to assist in a deaf classroom. I was young 9-10 years old and it just stayed with me," said Atkinson.

Atkinson has a USF degree in teaching American sign language.

Atkinson was a fixture during every press conference during the Surfside condo tragedy.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava instructed Atkinson to stand in close.

"Stand as close to me as you can to make sure they don't cut you out," Atkins said.

Often not being included in TV shots is always an issue for the deaf community and interpreters.

"Nobody asked her to do this. She truly cares about all the citizens in the community," Atkins said about the mayor.

Almost nine percent of Miami-Dade County residents have hearing issues. Thousands depend on sign language interpretation.

It was not an easy task signing during such a tragic and sensitive event.

"American sign language is very direct. There are no fluffy words. It is blunt. It is visual and I really struggled on how to put out that concept of remains, and DNA, some of the aspects about talking about the reality of who tragically died in that building," adds Atkinson.

Atkinson hopes her presence at Surfside will lead to more consideration for certified deaf interpreters. Not just on TV, but wherever they are needed.

"I can only hope that this mayor has set the example for all other agencies and the private sector in Miami to follow because there are people every day being denied services," adds Atkinson.

These days, you can find Brenda providing sign language interpretation for press conferences dealing with COVID-19.

Atkinson would like more to be done for those who are hearing impaired and said Surfside was about the victims, the families the search and rescue teams that spent a month on the pile of rubble that was once the Champlain Towers South.

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