Deaf People and Disasters Have things changed over time? By: Anne Hainisch
What would you do?• Imagine for a minute that you are deaf. A disaster has happened and all your co-workers are worried about themselves; which is a natural reaction. You have no idea the building is on fire until you begin to smell the smoke. Did you smell it in enough time?
September 11th, 2001• Let’s go back in time.• Were there deaf people in the Twin Towers that day?• Let’s watch a video clip to find out.• http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WpSh9IPzUu0• As one can see, the perspective of the deaf and hard of hearing is that they were forgotten that fateful day.
Did things get better?• The year is 2005. Hurricane Katrina is currently barreling toward the United States. Have things changed since 2001? Will the deaf and hard of hearing escape in enough time?
Hurricane Katrina• Christina Pullen is a deaf individual with a story.• She states she only knew to leave because her parents told her they needed to leave.• Miss Pullen typically relies on text messaging and electronic communication for her news and emergency alerts.• Katrina’s 160 mph winds knocked out cell phone reception and other communication systems.
• Little attention was given to the deaf and hearing impaired during this time.• One must realize these individuals rely heavily on electronic communication and text alerts.• Other means of communication must be made available if one option proves ineffective or unworkable.
Are things better now?• The year is now 2012 and yet another hurricane is barreling towards the United States. Will the deaf and hard of hearing have the communication access they need this time?
Hurricane Sandy• It seems over time, things have gotten better.• The National Association of the Deaf, State Associates, and the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Government applaud government entities.• They provided qualified, expert ASL interpreters and captioning of emergency announcements in the course of preparing for Hurricane Sandy.
• The New York City Mayor, Maryland Governor, and Massachusetts Governor all held press conferences with high qualified sign language interpreters.• Communication barriers often experienced by the deaf and hard of hearing were removed during this time.
Problems caused by disaster• Heavy rain, flooding, and perspiration can destroy hearing aids and cochlear implant processors or make them inoperable.• Loss of power and telecommunications services make it difficult or impossible to reach the professionals who provide visual information through interpreting or transliteration.
How the deaf/hard of hearing can be prepared• Have a network in place of family and friends who can check on you if a disaster is about to strike.• Make sure you have access to a pad of paper with pens or pencils for writing notes.• Pack extra batteries for tape recorders, portable TTYs, etc.• Know where the nearest shelter is located.
How would you help a deaf person?• Make Physical Improvements• Make Environmental Improvements• Make Verbal Improvements• Make Nonverbal Improvements
Physical Improvements• Make sure all your face can be seen.• Carry a small pad and pen in order to communicate.• NEVER bend down to talk because it may irritate the deaf/hard of hearing person.
Environmental Improvements• Make sure your position is good relative to the light source.• Good and properly positioned lighting helps with seeing speech and signs.• Monitor the noise level as noise can interfere with understanding.• In a group situation, make sure only one person talks at a time.
Verbal Improvements• Speak slightly slower.• For a hard of hearing person, speak louder but do not shout.• Do not exaggerate your speech.• Use any sign language you know even if it is only the sign language alphabet.
Nonverbal Improvement• Use facial expression and gestures.• Touch the deaf/hard of hearing person to get their attention if they are close enough to you.• Otherwise, stomp your foot on the floor or use a flashlight to get their attention.
Conclusion• Communication access for the deaf and hard of hearing has improved over time.• The deaf and hard of hearing need to make sure they are prepared before a disaster strikes.• The hearing community needs to be prepared to assist those that are deaf/hard of hearing if necessary.
• So, to answer the question, the deaf and disasters, have things changed over time?• The answer is, yes, things have changed over time.• Those that are deaf today say communication access is much better for them than it was in the past.