HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Nearly 60,000 people with hearing loss or no hearing at all reside in South Carolina, and during Hurricane Matthew many of them would have been in trouble if it weren't for one man.
Jason Hurdich is the animated certified deaf sign language interpreter who stood alongside Governor Nikki Haley during her news conferences to update the state on Hurricane Matthew.
Hurdich is the only CDI in state and one of just a few hundred in the nation. A CDI is a deaf person specially trained, using experiences, gestures, pictorial references and miming to better communicate.
Hurdich sat down with WMBF news along with his hearing interpreter.
"Prior to my appearance with Gov. Haley, the deaf community wasn't even sure what a CDI did," Hurdich signed while his interpreter spoke aloud. "They weren't familiar with their approach to interpreter and they realized this person can sign like me to explain like for example the lane reversal, that's kind of a complex concept even for hearing people, so I utilized space within American sign language, I used my facial expression, because in sign language the face is our grammar, we use our eyebrows, our mouths, heads to function as linguistics. People think I'm animated or dramatic, but no, American Sign Language utilizes the face for grammar, similar to how hearing people use the voice for intonation."
Those facial expressions are one reason so many people have taken interest in him. Online, He's gone viral for his work, but he'll tell you it was a team that helped get the job done. We only saw Hurdich, but behind the camera lens were interpreters who can hear. They would sign what the governor was saying to Hurdich, and then he signed it to the public. He says sometimes it took some fine-tuning.
"We have to focus on prep time prior to the assignment, they have to know the areas impacted, how many power outages, we have to know specific names, how to spell them right, so after the assignment me and my team analyzed what we did right and wrong for several hours just for one conference. We deliberate and prepare for the next day, so it's easily a 12 hour day."
It turned out to be a long week and a half for Herdich and the team. Hurricane Matthew was devastating for so many in this state, but he's using his new found fame to spread awareness for the deaf community.
Jason Hurdich was born deaf. He currently works as a counselor for the South Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation Department.
View additional interview video with Hurdich below:
Why his experience makes a difference: