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COVID-19 pandemic poses unique challenges for members of deaf and blind community

Last Updated Jul 8, 2020 at 7:41 pm PDT

Summary

Members of Metro Vancouver's Deafblind community agree that social isolation has increased during the pandemic

A barrier is figuring out what exactly is going on in a world that caters to those who can see and hear

RICHMOND (NEWS 1130) – Adapting to the “new normal” during the COVID-19 pandemic has left many struggling to adapt to changes in everyday life, but it’s posed even more unique challenges for those who are deaf or blind.

Tommy Leung lives in Richmond and is completely blind due to Glaucoma.

Through this pandemic, he has continued to work from home thanks to the use of advanced technology, but he admits that leaving his apartment has been more difficult, especially with the emphasis on social distancing.

“The cane right now, I make contact with lots of things and use my hands to feel things, so social distancing is very tough,” Leung says. “It’s hard for me to know if people walking around are wearing a mask, or where the hand sanitizer is. It’s encouraging us to stay in and stay isolated, a lot more than what we usually do.”

Members of Metro Vancouver’s Deafblind community agree that social isolation has increased during the pandemic.

Ryan Ollis is a member of the Deafblind community and says when it comes to approaching someone who is deaf or blind amid COVID-19, best practices are not always clear and the use of face masks is making it harder than ever before to communicate.

“People aren’t sure how to approach us, with social distancing and people not wanting to touch, it’s making it worse,” Ollis says. “And with masks, for a deaf person, we don’t even know if the person wearing a mask is talking.”

Craig MacLean is also a member of the Deafblind community, he says “masks are hard to see. Interpreters, doctor’s appointments, when they wear black shirts and black masks, I couldn’t see the interpreter because she just looked all black.”

Another barrier is figuring out what exactly is going on in a world that caters to those who can see and hear.

“A lot of information in news is not available to us. It’s put out on video and may have transcripts later, but with our community it is difficult,” Ollis says. “The interpreters are quite small on the screen, we need bigger pictures, transcripts, to see what’s happening, and it’s missing visual cues.”