RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC)—For many, navigating the coronavirus pandemic has been difficult—like following mandates that require mask-wearing and limit in-person gatherings.
But the deaf and hard of hearing community face additional challenges.
Eric Raff, Director of the Virginia Department of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, estimated 700,000 Virginians have some type of hearing limitation.
“There are also plenty of resources that our community members could speak to but some of the resources are not always accessible to the deaf and hard of hearing,” he said.
In the middle of a pandemic where access and understanding information is key, Raff said inclusion is not only needed but essential.
“We have a COVID webpage and so we encourage and promote that webpage that has accessibility built in,” Raff said.
Ron Lanier, a grandfather who is hard of hearing, said he hates masks because he relies on lip reading and body language.
“It’s a huge challenge for me,” he said.
Tressala Bateson, an American Sign Language teacher who is deaf, said she thinks the masks with a clear window are cool.
Bateson also said she’s concerned about children— who have hearing limitations—learning virtually on schools.
“I really see a lot of kids falling through the cracks. These kids with disabilities have a hard time and that really gets to me,” she said.
Bateson and Lanier’s main priorities are the access to quality healthcare services.
Raff said the VDDHH website has a tab for coronavirus resources where you can find an interpreter and now medical facilities are implementing communication cards to interact with deaf or hard of hearing patients.