Pontiac-GMC provides interpreters

Originally appeared in Silent News, February 2002.

Auto shows allow people to check out the latest accessories, marvel at concept cars, and sigh over vehicles they’ll never be able to afford. There are often gimmicky performances and conversations with people about new innovative products, and fascinating details behind each car that are told by presenters or automotive industry workers. Deaf and hard of hearing people are now able to participate in what is considered one of the staples of the driving world, thanks to a program offered by General Motors’s Pontiac-GMC division.

Pontiac-GMC, for the fourth year, is providing interpreting services at each of its auto shows across the nation. American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters and product specialists conduct tours of the show for deaf/hard of hearing groups of sizes from anywhere to five people to 100 people, with tours lasting as long as six hours. Each group member is given a complimentary ticket, along with a souvenir.

“Last year alone, more than 1,500 deaf and hard of hearing students and community members experienced auto shows through the Pontiac-GMC program,” Christine Conti, public relations manager, said.

The program, which is paid for by Pontiac-GMC and through volunteer efforts, is the only one of its kind. The program, in addition to providing interpreters, also is exploring the possibility of having monitors and/or kiosks with closed captions during each tour.

“A typical auto show has displays by major automotive companies and related vendors, where speaking demonstrations about key vehicles and products are constantly taking place,” Conti said. “And the shows all provide plenty of written information about the products that can be taken home for more in-depth understanding.”

Many of the groups participating in Pontiac-GMC’s program are from schools, where students and teachers incorporate the program in their curricula.

“We are so glad that the experience so far has been a positive one,” Conti said, “and we are starting to make new friends for more group visits year after year.”

Shows are planned through April. For exact dates and locations, please e-mail carshowsfordeaf@aol.com.

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