Who's that person next to the governor?

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Monica McGee

Ever wonder about the woman who does such a great job signing next to the governor during major weather events? We did, so we went to learn more about her.

Monica McGee has been using sign language all her life.

"Both of my parents are deaf, so I grew up in the deaf community," she said. "I interpreted for my parents and my parents friends as a child and was in a deaf church around deaf people."

So naturally, McGee put her communication skills to work at a high-profile job with the state's Division of Services for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing.

She is the primary interpreter for the governor during important news conferences like those during last week's winter storm.

"It's become more important to me that, as I become a professional in this career, that communication access is at the forefront rather than an afterthought," she said. "Not every deaf person can read captioning. Not every deaf person can lip read. You have a very large population in North Carolina that does rely on sign language. So, having access during these press conferences is important to the life, the safety, the well-being of North Carolinians

McGee travels the state, interpreting for other state employees who are deaf, hard of hearing or deaf and blind.

"I have to make sure that the person I interpret for does their job, and they're able to do their job as an equal person on their team," she said.

She also trains other interpreters who can fill-in during important news conferences as needed.

McGee admits the job can be stressful at times.

"People think there's a word for every sign. One question I get is 'How do you keep up so fast when they're speaking?' or 'How are you able to follow?' I basically stick to the concepts of what's happening. For instance, over the weekend it was stay off the roads. The roads are icy," she said.

She says keeping others safe and informed motivates her to be an ally for the deaf and hard of hearing.

"If you don't have qualified interpreters, people aren't getting equal access to the information they need," she said.

There are 521 interpreters with active licenses in North Carolina, according to the North Carolina Interpreter and Transliterator Licensing Board.

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