USDA collaboration creates food safety videos in ASL


Source of Article:


In June, with the help of Gallaudet students, alumni, and members of the faculty and staff, and the Washington D.C.-based interpreting agency Access Interpreting, Inc., the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) launched a series of ASL videocasts. These ASL videos have played a large role in the USDA project SignFSIS, which is named for the Food Safety and Inspection Service, the USDA division that coordinates it. Less than four months later, what began with eight videos is set to expand to cover all food safety topics on FSIS’ Website, according to FSIS Public Affairs Specialist Bridgette Keefe. 


Keefe, a 2004 graduate who majored in communication studies, noticed that when she talked about foodborne pathogens or recalls with deaf and hard of hearing friends, they were often surprised because they did not have much exposure to such news. At the same time, Keefe noted the popularity of vlogs as a way to share information in the deaf community, and realized that the same form could be applied to food safety information.


So she spearheaded the effort to get ASL versions of important safety messages on the Website. The videos included three- to five-minute messages on foodborne illness and proper food handling, preparation, and storage. Their release was publicized through the deaf media and she said that they have received positive feedback from the community.


“When it comes to disseminating food safety information, consumers who are deaf and hard of hearing are not afforded full access,” said Keefe. “Creating SignFSISprovided me with an extraordinary opportunity to add access and give back to the deaf and hard of hearing community.” When she brought it up to her department, she said, the proposal was met with enthusiastic approval, making the process easy.  


Support from ASL experts also helped the initiative. “Members of the Gallaudet community and local interpreting agency staff were e­­ssential to the process,” Keefe said. The written scripts were professionally translated into ASL by deaf translators and performed by deaf ASL models provided by Access Interpreting. The USDA edited the videos, then added the captions and posted the finished videos on the site.


Lyle Vold, one of the three co-owners of Access Interpreting, said of his agency’s involvement, “We believe that this is an incredible project and will become the standard mode of communicating messages to the ASL population in the future.” Co-owner Brad Leon added, “It is our hope that other government agencies will follow USDA’s lead.”


The involvement of deaf professionals and Gallaudet alumni in this process has been apparent, “We have involved qualified deaf linguists, translators, and ASL models every step of the way,” said Ryan Leon, who is both the third co-owner and access interpreting and a graduate of the University.


FSIS’ mission is to ensure that meat, poultry, and processed egg products are safe, wholesome and correctly labeled and packaged. The SignFSIS effort fits with the Agency’s additional charge of conducting public education programs to educate consumers on how to prevent foodborne illness and keep their families safe.


An FSIS press release pointed out the broad appeal of this resource. “All consumers will benefit from the videocasts that provide food safety education in a visual format with captioning as an alternative to traditional text-based fact sheets,” it stated.


FSIS is the first Agency within the Department of Agriculture to provide this type of service to consumers, but may not be the only one. Like Brad Leon, Keefe is hopeful that other agencies will feel inspired to create their own ASL videos. Sharing of the videos has already begun. In a government-wide effort following powerful hurricanes, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) noted one of the videos in a multi-agency press release, featuring one of them on its website during September’s severe hurricane season. The video explained food safety in the case of a power outage.


Looking ahead, FSIS is set to release two additional videos each month, in the end covering all food safety topics.


Consumers can access the videos and subscribe to receive updates whenever new SignFSIS videos become available on the SignFSIS Website.


Posted: 17 Oct 2008



Main Page

setstats            Copyright (C) All rights reserved under

            If you have any comments, please  send your email to