Following COVID-19 while deaf: With all the coverage, some are feeling left out

Following COVID-19 while deaf

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Southern Arizona is diverse in culture, language and people. But, as information about COVID-19 becomes increasingly important — and changes quickly — some communities are feeling left out.

“We are all confused. I would say some of us get limited information,” said Latrina Lewis, who was born deaf.

As news conferences, announcements and daily updates on social media and television often do not have interpreters, many people in the deaf community, like Lewis, are feeling left out. Once reports get filtered down and interpreted in American Sign Language, or captions in other languages deaf individuals may be fluent in, the information could be old, especially during an ever-evolving situation like COVID-19.

“Of the information coming out,” said Letty Moran, a certified emergency interpreter. “Interpreting is a lot more than just hands in the air in the English order a human right for deaf people to have access to communication.”

Moran’s job is to bring information out of the silence for people in the deaf community. It’s a job she’s had since she was little.

She is first-generation Mexican-American, and grew up translating English to Spanish, as well as in sign language.

“Both of my parents are deaf. I have other extended family members that are deaf,” she said.

During times of crisis, like now, her job is increasingly important.

“I’m like a soldier,” Moran said. “I just do the job and I put it as clear as possible.”

As she breaks the news and information in real-time, Lewis is on the other side of the screen.

“I’ve been crying almost every day for my students, for my daughter. Their lives have completely changed,” Lewis said.

For people who are not fluent in English, captions might not be enough, especially if there is not an interpreter, leaving much news up to the interpretation of the outside world. Which, Lewis said, can be confusing when, for example, people are lining up around grocery stores. The reports they get say the stores are not closing, but she said it can insight some fear that she has heard old news seeing some of the panic-behaviors.

“We have to watch people’s behaviors, that’s a tell-all for us as deaf individuals,” Lewis said.

Lewis and Moran hope the deaf community will be considered more in these unprecedented times with more captioning and interpretation made available.

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