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Sign Language Receives Top Billing

How daily COVID-19 press conferences have increased exposure to sign language, for both the Deaf and hearing communities

COVID-19 has had many impacts on our lives, but one visible increase has been the use of sign-language interpreters as regional, state and national leaders provide daily press conference updates on the state of the pandemic.

This increased use of sign-language interpreters has had a huge impact on Deaf communities around the globe, increasing accessibility to critical public safety and health messaging as it is being announced. It has also had an impact on the visibility of sign languages themselves, and allowed the general public more exposure to how the Deaf communicate on a daily basis.

In Australia, state authorities have provided daily COVID-19 updates to the community on the number of cases, tests, contract-tracing efforts, public health messaging, hot-spot alerts and more. Daily updates have been broadcast via TV, radio, and internet and amplified through social media. Interpreters shared the main stage to share the updates live via Auslan (Australian Sign Language).

Another unexpected impact has been the increase in the public's interest in learning the language. According to the Deaf Society in Australia and Deaf Services, enrollment in Auslan courses have risen by more than 400% since the pandemic began. They attribute this directly to COVID-19 and the increased visibility of signing on the national stage. This positive trend, if it continues, can help more people communication with their Deaf colleagues, family and friends. It can also lead to more people receiving Diplomas in Auslan, such as the program that is offered at Melbourne Polytechnic,

For more information on programs in Auslan, visit

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