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Deaf community pushes for better access during COVID-19 pandemic

Social distancing and face masks are some of the measures health experts recommend during the...
Social distancing and face masks are some of the measures health experts recommend during the pandemic to keep people safe. These same protective guidelines also present challenges for the deaf and hard of hearing community.(Live 5 News)
Updated: May. 2, 2020 at 4:42 AM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Social distancing and face masks are some of the measures health experts recommend during the pandemic to keep people safe.

These same protective guidelines also present challenges for the deaf and hard of hearing community.

Katina Cribb and Laima Johnson are board members for the Charleston Association of the Deaf.

They say as deaf people, they feel like they are getting delayed information.

"I felt like I was the last person to know the coronavirus was serious," Cribb said, through an interpreter. "It's tough to get all of the information through the news. A lot of the conferences don't have an interpreter."

Cribb lives in North Charleston and she says she has not seen an interpreter at a city news conference. But they say it is not just locally, but nationally it's been a problem as well.

Both women hope there will be more sign-language interpreters, not just at news conferences, but everywhere.

There’s a push to get the white house to use a sign-language interpreter during their press briefings. The National Council on Disability sent out a letter to the white house last month.

Johnson says they do have access to online resources for some information, but even going out to the grocery store can sometimes be a problem.

"My husband is usually the one who goes to the store. He is hard of hearing so he relies more on reading lips and trying to read people's faces, and they're all backing away like he has the plague," Johnson said. "It is definitely a hindrance of communication."

Anita McDaniel is executive director of the South Carolina Association of the Deaf (SCAD). She says the challenge of social distancing can also present problems for people trying to communicate by writing things down.

"You can type and show something on your phone about what you're trying to say, but they're trying to keep their distance so that's definitely been an additional stress on the deaf and hard of hearing community," McDaniel said.

Right now the organization is also trying to focus on helping deaf students who may have limited resources during this time.

More information and resources can be found on SCAD’s website.

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