Hurricane Matthew deaf interpreter talks change with Beaufort teen

Jason Hurdich and Ambriance Lamar, who both use sign language to communicate, discuss ways to make driving safer for people like them.

Beaufort, SC (WSAV) – A Beaufort teenager, who has already caught the attention of former President Barack Obama, now has South Carolina’s only Certified Deaf Interpreter, who is also deaf, considering her ideas.

Jason Hurdich, the one who captivated families crowded around their TVs during Hurricane Matthew and who SC Governor Nikki Haley named a ‘Rockstar,’ traveled to Beaufort Thursday to surprise Ambriance Lamar with a visit.

Lamar, 18, and a senior at Whale Branch Early College High School, became non-verbal through complications from West Nile Virus after contracting it through a mosquito bite at the age of two.  Although she can hear fine, she uses sign-language or voice-to-text to communicate.

News 3 recently shared the story of how Lamar wrote President Obama last fall, expressing the need for more safeguards for drivers like her.  She felt compelled to do something after reading the story last year of an unarmed deaf man being shot to death by police.  Since then, she’s become fearful that a police officer could mistake her hand gestures for being non-compliant during a traffic stop.  Ambriance told Obama in her letter that she thinks there should be a system where police are notified immediately when they run the license tag of a deaf or non-verbal driver.  Obama’s staff contacted Lamar at school, asking permission to post the letter to the White House’s website.  He followed up with a letter to her letting her know he read her letter personally and was inspired.

Thursday Hurdich talked to Lamar about her goals and aspirations.  They discussed colleges, majors and ways they could bring changes in their community.  Hurdich was surprised to find Lamar’s driver’s license had no restrictions listed.  While Hurdich’s license notes his impairment on the back, the two share the same situation that an officer wouldn’t know they can’t speak until they reach for something in their pocket.

“When police pull me over they’re not aware that my driver’s license says at that time that I’m deaf or speech impaired, they have no clue,” Hurdich said through an interpreter.   “They only learn that later on- not in the moment they’re pulling me over. So maybe it would be better to already to be notified,” Hurdich stated, showing his approval to Lamar’s idea.

It was their first time face to face-talking about life, challenges and goals.

It’s evident they speak the same language not only with their hands, but with their hearts.

“I think it’s very inspiring and you could change the world, right?” Hurdich said through his interpreter.  “It only takes one person in the community to get things started and to support a cause.”

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