Deaf sign language interpreter named honorary sheriff after going viral during storm coverage
GONZALES – In some circles, the talk this weekend wasn’t the storm but the animated sign language interpreter who rose to viral fame helping the deaf understand important governmental updates in Ascension Parish.
Ari Latino, 20, the interpreter, is worthy of his newfound fame. Latino is deaf and is signing through his own interpreter in the audience. As a “native signer,” Latino is able to speak more directly to a deaf audience and can sign the messages more conversationally – perhaps even easier to understand – for deaf viewers.
He can essentially sign a “dialect” that a person who is trying to sign directly from what they hear may not be able to communicate.
“I really want to help the deaf people,” Latino said through an interpreter in an interview with WBRZ Saturday. “[I don’t want] deaf people to feel left out. I want the deaf to really understand, clearly, what’s happening and not to have any misunderstandings or feel like they’re in danger.”
This weekend marked Latino’s first time signing on live television, but you wouldn’t know that because of how expressive and confident he was in front of all those cameras.
“The next day they called me out to come again and go live and that’s where it really started getting more attention I think,” Latino said.
The passion in his signing was noticed well after the press conferences were over, making him a viral sensation of his own. Latino became the talk of social media, eventually leading to a now-viral video of him signing over rap lyrics.
“It was kind of a funny video, and I feel like me signing to rap is kind of funny. But that’s gone kind of viral, and it’s really given me chills,” Latino said.
Latino is interpreting for the Ascension Parish government through work assigned from the Deaf Focus organization. He says he's the first deaf interpreter in the state.
Latino was also awarded the title of honorary sheriff for the month of July by Sheriff Bobby Webre.
“Ari is the definition of inspiration,” Sheriff Webre said. “He opened the eyes of a lot of people in Ascension Parish and around the world that it’s important to keep open communication with our deaf community and making sure they are fully informed. His energy and enthusiasm is just infectious. I am proud to honor this young man with a bright future ahead.”
Latino’s birthday was Tuesday and he had one special request - for friends, family and others to donate to Deaf Focus through its website deaffocus.org.