For one, most masks are not Deaf-friendly, since many Deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals rely on lip-reading along with sign language. Some masks are being produced or used at hospitals with clear panels so the Deaf can still see the speaker’s mouth.
Without the clear panel, masks are another layer widening the divide between the hearing and Deaf worlds.
Zoom and other video conference apps can also be challenging. For a Deaf person, as long as they have good eyesight and a solid internet connection, video conferencing is an excellent way to communicate while social distancing. But without one of these, even Zoom falls short for the Deaf.
Finally, getting information about COVID-19 is difficult. Some of the ways hearing people get information – such as television, radio, or conversations – are not easily accessible to all Deaf people.
Catherine Shorrock with Deaf Bible Society says that in conversations with the Deaf, “I think the biggest impact that I’ve seen…is more on an emotional/mental effect of just being in isolation and not having their normal community to be able to interact with.”
During a time of limited human interaction, God’s Word is a great encouragement to believers. Unfortunately, the Deaf community still doesn’t have one full Bible translation in any sign language.
Deaf Bible Society works with ministry partners around the world who are translating Scripture into sign languages. The pandemic may have slowed translation work, but it hasn’t stopped.
“I know of some people who are literally staying at the translation centers so they can continue working there because they can’t travel back and forth between their house and the translation center,” Shorrock says.
“I spoke with someone yesterday who told me that he walks two hours each way to get to the translation center every day and get home before the [curfew]. They have to be at home by 7 pm. I think that despite slowdowns and barriers, I think all over the globe we see Deaf people who are committed to this work and are doing the best that they can in a hard situation.”
Some Deaf translation teams are even making additional sign language videos with COVID-19 information to distribute among Deaf communities.
If you want to be an encouragement to the Deaf at this time, link arms with them by supporting Deaf Bible Society here!
Shorrock also offers these prayer requests: “I’ve been just praying that the Lord would show His presence to [the Deaf], that He would be an encouragement to them.
“I even spoke to someone the other day. I could just see the downcast on their face. They’re just tired and they’re alone. So just [be] praying that the Lord…would surround people to check in on [Deaf people] and to say, ‘Hey, how are you doing?’ That’s one of the biggest things I feel like we can do to be an encouragement to them.”