Greg Goldman has achieved almost a rock-star following in Mississippi during the COVID-19 crisis. He even has his detractors who have taken to social media to complain about his shoulder-length curly locks.
The 52-year-old Goldman travels the state to sign for public officials including Gov. Tate Reeves and, more recently, Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs Jr., providing sign language interpretation for deaf and hard-of-hearing Mississippians during the many press conferences.
“My Dad is deaf, so I learned to sign at an early age” Goldman said Thursday prior to Vicksburg’s joint press conference.
“During my teen years, we actually lived in Vicksburg, and I played football under legendary Coach Lum Wright at Warren Central,” he added.
Goldman, who now calls South Jackson home, is employed by the Office of Deaf and Hard of Hearing, which is a division of the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services. He is one of about 200 sign language interpreters in the state, and among only 20 or 30 interpreters who are very skilled.
Ben Wagenknecht, who is himself deaf, is the director of ODHH and has led the agency for the past 12 years. A Massachusetts native, Wagenknect, 45, attended Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., a university for deaf and hard-of-hearing students.
On Friday, I was able to conduct an interview with Wagenknect with the help of staff member Amy Ainsworth.
Among the issues he is currently addressing is to provide mechanisms for law enforcement to be able to identify and communicate with hearing impaired individuals during traffic stops and other situations, including emergencies. Wagenknect said the cooperation of the State Fire Marshall’s Office has led to advancements in technology available for warning purposes in emergencies.
Wagenknect said there are currently between 10,000 to 20,000 people in Mississippi who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. The World Health Organization puts the national figure at about 35,000, while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put the national rate at just under 16%, meaning approximately 50 million Americans have some form of hearing impairment.
For more information on the Office of Deaf and Hard of Hearing visit www.odhh.org