Silent Obstacles: local deaf woman offers insight about daily lifestyle

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – About 466 million people are deaf or hard of hearing in the world, according to the World Health Organization.

Nearly 10 million of those people live in the United States, and they can only rely on words seen at the bottom of the screen when watching a television program.

And sometimes, that isn’t even good enough.

“Most deaf people don’t understand that,” Evie Seifert said, who considers herself deaf.

Seifert, who was born deaf, says she mostly relies on the news reading on her phone.

“Most deaf people grew up, they use the first sign language,” Seifert said. “So their English is not perfect.”

She says in a regular conversation, she can read lips.

“Someone can make a call for me,” Seifert said. “I’ll have my daughter, because she’s hearing.”

But with the pandemic going on, it’s a lot tougher for her to communicate with others.

“With the mask, I can’t read lips,” Seifert said.

So she often turns to TV news for most important information about COVID-19.

“It’s nice because on the news, if I watch TV, they have an interpreter,” Seifert said.

That interpreter is Colleen Cudo, someone we often see at the La Crosse County Health Department’s press conferences.

“The biggest thing for me that I have a strong feeling towards is honesty, clarity and accuracy,” Cudo said. “When I’m interpreting, I take the information and I actually change it around.”

Cudo is a veteran of sign language.

“I’ve been doing the interpreting for about 34 years,” Cudo said.

Like most of us, she’s learning something new every day during the pandemic.

“It can be a challenge because there are signs that weren’t necessarily set up for COVID-19 when this all came about,” Cudo said.

Interpreting can also be tough on her physically and mentally.

“Headaches,” Cudo said. “You also get really fatigued.”

But she doesn’t regret doing what she does.

“I gain relationships with my deaf community,” Cudo said. “They become friends.”

Seifert says she moved to Sparta in 2011.

“I needed an interpreter because I was new to the area,” Seifert said.

However, it didn’t take her long to find Colleen.

“And I found out about her, and she’s been my interpreter for years,” Seifert said. “She was there for my daughter’s birth. So, I’ve known her for a while. She’s great.”

Evie and Colleen may be separate from each other when the news is on, but they always have a bond to share.

Cudo says about 40 people in La Crosse County are either deaf or hard of hearing.