Miguel Crespo, who is deaf, drove to the coronavirus vaccination site at the Esperanza Community Vaccination Center in Philadelphia’s Feltonville neighborhood on Saturday after being told by relatives that there would be American Sign Language interpreters to help him.
The 48-year-old North Philadelphia resident had two interpreters, Stephanie Sforza and Austin Rutland, who helped him through the process of registering for his first Pfizer shot, which was administered by a Pennsylvania Air National Guard medic, and ensuring that he was signed up for his second shot later this month.
“I didn’t really feel anything at all,” he said of the shot through interpreters, while waiting the required 15 minutes afterward in the observation room. “I was really happy to hear they had interpreters here.”
In fact, the Esperanza site, at Fourth and Bristol Streets, and the Convention Center site in Center City both have American Sign Language interpreters every day they are open, said Charlie Elison, a spokesperson for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which runs the clinics in partnership with the city and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency.
On average, the sites vaccinate about five to 10 people daily who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, Elison said.But for the last few weeks, FEMA, the city’s Department of Public Health, SEPTA, the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf, and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia had promoted Saturday as a day at Esperanza dedicated to those who are deaf or have hearing loss, with more ASL and Certified Deaf Interpreters on hand.
They got the word out through fliers, social media, and social media influencers, including Keith Wann, 52, a Harrisburg-based comedian who is a child of deaf parents.
“Today was really successful,” said Elison, counting about 25 people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing at the Esperanza site Saturday. “The main intent of today was to do targeted outreach and get the word out about the capability we have” with American Sign Language and Certified Deaf Interpreters.