Belozovsky, 47, is a vibrant, round-faced interpreter who translated Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s coronavirus briefing into American Sign Language last year. Spelling words with your fingers and pumping air made Belozovsky a staple of Cuomo’s briefings as much as PowerPoint slides.
He is now the most visible holdover since Governor Kathy Hokul replaced Cuomo.
For viewers who were able to hear Cuomo’s briefing, Belozovsky-the man in the corner of the screen with that sneaky, knowing look-somehow left relentlessly harsh news. When Cuomo ridiculed, Belozovsky also ridiculed. If he moved his shoulders, so did Belozovsky.
I didn’t edit any of it. “I can’t do that,” he said. Facial expressions conveyed grammar — and he said. “The hearing impaired don’t hear the tone, he sees the tone,” he said.
Most viewers met Belozovsky after four ASL users and advocacy group Disability Rights New York sued the Cuomo administration. The state website feed did. The network feed was modified after Judge Valerie Caproni ruled in a federal district court in Manhattan that hearing-impaired people were effectively excluded from the Kuomo briefing in violation of Americans with Disabilities Act.
Belozovsky cannot hear the voice of the person he is signing because he is deaf himself. He relies on a “feed interpreter” to listen to and sign live audio. Working in a studio opposite the Albany State Capitol, he also watches a video.
Belozovsky was a tightrope walker in the former Soviet Union — he immigrated from Ukraine as a teenager — and realized that signing Cuomo was a high-wire act of its own kind. He recalled that Cuomo did not use a script and Belozovsky remained “flying blind.” With Hochul, he is learning to predict what she will say. “As an interpreter, you need to be able to do it,” he said.
When asked if he met Cuomo, he made Zero with one hand.
“It’s really disappointing,” he said. “In other states where the governor was holding a press conference, they would allow interpreters.”