MEMPHIS, Tenn. — There are more than 100,000 people in the Mid-South who are Deaf or hard of hearing. DeafConnect, a Memphis organization that serves the Deaf community, is encouraging the media and government and health officials to use qualified interpreters to provide live American Sign Language signing for updates on the coronavirus.
“This is the most severe health crisis in decades, and unfortunately, many in the Deaf community are missing out on much of the vital information that’s being communicated because local government officials and media outlets are not providing ASL interpreting for coronavirus news. We encourage local officials to follow the lead of Governor Bill Lee and have qualified interpreters to aid in communication,” said Teresa Wilson, DeafConnect’s acting executive director.
Wilson said traditional closed captioning is not meeting basic communication needs for Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals in this uncertain time. Many times the closed captioning system isn’t keeping up with the fast pace of communication, and other times complex terms are misspelled or commercials interrupt the closed captioning so the entire message isn’t being communicated.
The Americans with Disabilities Act requires public and private entities to consider the needs of people who are D/deaf – which may include ASL interpreting services. The ADA requires a business or other organization to request and pay for an ASL interpreter – not the person who is D/deaf or hard of hearing.
Wilson encourages anyone who is communicating important information to schedule a qualified interpreter through DeafConnect or another local organization. Emergency interpreting is available 24 hours a day.