As deaf people all over the world watched funeral services for Nelson Mandela, most knew pretty quickly that something was wrong.
Here in the Tampa Bay area, it was clear to Thomas and Lori Koch, who are both deaf. They were surprised by the nonsensical signing on the screen.
"It became obvious he was making things up. He was repeating the same hand movements, so it was obvious he was a fake," Lori Koch said.
"It was just totally deflating for deaf people, like saying deaf people are not important. This is a famous man who did so much for many people," said her husband, Thomas.
The couple has two little girls. Their oldest is in Kindergarten at Plum Elementary in Clearwater. She hears, and signs quite well, and the couple wants people to know how easy it is to learn sign language.
That's why they put a video of 5-year-old Claire using sign language while singing holiday favorites during her school's holiday program. The little girl did it so her deaf parents could hear the words to the songs.
The clip has gone viral, and now has more than 779,000 views on YouTube.
"Children who are hearing and have parents who are deaf, sign language comes natural to them," said Rosa Rodriguez, who runs The Deaf Literacy Center through the Pinellas Public Library Cooperative.
The Bay Area has the fifth-largest deaf population in the country, according to the Florida Association of the Deaf.
Like the Koches, Rodriguez hopes the embarrassing event on a world stage will focus attention on the deaf community and the importance of teaching sign language.
"Everybody is talking about why did it happen, how wrong it is. Actually it's not -- it is showing the world the importance of education, and that's wonderful," Rodriguez said.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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