Alumna Tailyn Kaster '08 Finds Herself in the Spotlight, and Uses it to Advocate Communications Access for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community

tailyn kasterCredit: USA TODAY Network
Tailyn Kaster translates Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds COVID-19 press conferences

The lights turn on. Cameras focus on the podium. Reporters press in a little closer. And it starts. Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds stands in front of a crowded room and gives Iowans the latest COVID-19 news. By her side, helping spread news and interpreting for the deaf and hard of hearing community is Tailyn Kaster ’08. Kaster, an Iowa State Licensed Nationally Certified Interpreter, diligently interprets the latest COVID-19 news during daily news conferences with Gov. Reynolds. 

Kaster knew before graduating high school what she wanted to do when she grew up. After hearing about interpreting from a friend who was taking a course, she found herself instantly interested. Kaster started by taking an interpreter training class at Iowa Western. After she completed their curriculum, she came to Columbia College Chicago to major in ASL-English Interpretation. Columbia’s American Sign Language program is one of fifteen accredited programs in the United States

Today, Kaster works at a few interpreting agencies, including Deaf Services Unlimited. Through her agency work, Kaster has had the opportunity to work in front of big crowds. From Broadway plays, concerts, political rallies, doctor’s visits, job interviews and many other events, Kaster has gotten used to being in front of a group of people. However, those events were all put on hold when her contact at Deaf Services Unlimited reached out and asked if she could work the Governor’s press conference on March 13. While originally only scoped to work that one conference, Kaster has been interpreting Governor Reynold’s press conferences daily.

Dedicated to interpreting as accurately as possible, Kaster often watches the press conferences after the fact to see what she can do better for the next one. “This experience has been very challenging. Being on TV almost every day knowing how many people are watching me work can be very nerve-wracking. I do my best to make sure I’m conveying the information clearly while at the same time knowing that it is impossible to interpret perfectly every day.”

Kaster has also started being recognized by Iowa’s general population. This recognition is a new experience for Kaster and she emphasized that she isn’t the point of the situation. She’s relieved that she’s able to provide communication access to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals throughout Iowa. “Communication access is a right for Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals that sometimes gets overlooked. I hope that by having this service provided regularly in such a visible way during such a crucial time organizations and companies will be more aware and forward thinking when it comes to providing communication access.”

Of her time at Columbia, Kaster mentioned that all of the staff and faculty in the Interpretation department were fantastic, but CJ Speakman, Diana Gorman Jamrozik and the previous Chair Carly Flagg especially pushed Kaster to become a better interpreter and helped get her career off the ground. American Sign Language Chair and Associate Professor Peter Cook remembers Kaster’s time at Columbia, “she was one of students who went beyond our classroom experience by engaging within the Deaf community, and I appreciate for her continuing cultural sensitivity and greater respect for communication access for all people, in fact, she believes this is an essential part of being human.”

Kaster’s advice to current students is to “always be open to learning throughout your entire career. Your work is never going to be perfect but if you are open to feedback and are flexible you will continually become a better interpreter.”


Sarah Borchardt
Communications Manager