Coronavirus poses added challenge for hospital patients who are deaf or hard of hearing

Summarized by Matthew Dehler, staff writer

In the midst of the coronavirus, the deaf and hard of hearing community faces many challenges. From communicating with opaque masks (which interfere with ASL) to facing lengthy lines at doctors’ offices, these challenges can sometimes feel hopeless. 

Prior to the pandemic, many in the deaf and hard of hearing community dealt with buggy, unreliable video communication screens at hospitals. This problem still exists during the coronavirus chaos, leaving most to resort to traditional pen and paper, or whiteboards, to connect with others.

Fortunately, the National Association of the Deaf published helpful guidelines to improve communication and accessibility during the pandemic. Some of these tips include bringing your own tools (such as smartphone translators and basic printouts informing others of your disability) and using an iPad with extra-large fonts to communicate from a safe distance.

Even interpreters face problems. Most masks conceal facial expressions, which help ASL-users communicate. As stores remain closed (or wiped out of necessities) gathering supplies for communication and interpretation can be difficult.

Still, a sense of duty sometimes outweighs worry. One brave interpreter, Keimi Malave, works in Manhattan. Even though the area is still heavily quarantined, she readily accepts tasks in hospitals others are afraid to take on. In her words, she says, “Even though I do not want to put myself in that position, who does? Somebody has to do it, and if it’s not me, who is it going to be?”

Read the full article here: For more information on the NAD’s guidelines, click here:

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