On February 1, 2020, Deaf Vee posted a story about Deaf people making prank calls to Chinese restaurants. These prank calls are being recorded and then posted on Facebook. As of last week, ZP Better Together recently suspended a gentleman’s account for recording his conversation with a Chinese restaurant using an interpreter. Community members have expressed concern and frustration that the National Association of the Deaf has shown no intent on discussing what they feel is one of the largest and scariest outbreaks since SARS: Coronavirus.

Deaf Vee’s article discussed the widespread language deprivation in the community as an important factor in why so many people do not have a full understanding of pandemics, which can lead to unnecessary levels of anxiety. This is all the more reason for the NAD to reach out to the community and share information in American Sign Language [ASL], and this has not happened. 

Community members have had varying reactions to what’s happening with the Coronavirus epidemic and how NAD has [not] responded. One example would be Ricky Taylor, who has asked why NAD has chosen to post about the Super Bowl and Deaf Women’s History Month and yet completely ignore such an important topic that has a global impact.

A key Coronavirus-related topic, or pandemic-related topic for that matter, is the extent of ableism. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] has shared recommendations on how to prevent the transmission of Coronavirus, with an emphasis on not touching your face with unwashed hands and washing your hands frequently for at least 20 consecutive seconds. The use of sign language often involves touching our faces, and hand contact is all the more prominent for our DeafBlind community members. 

NAD has not addressed the ableism in CDC statements or shared any information that would be of assistance for community members in navigating this matter. Able-bodied individuals have stockpiled on hand sanitizers, disinfectant wipes, and sanitary wipes to the point of emptying out stock at multiple brick-and-mortar and online stores, including our market giant – Amazon. This article uses the term “able-bodied” to describe people who are able to access sinks and wash their hands with ease while standing up and who do not have compromised immune systems. Mass purchases from able-bodied people have put people with disabilities at a disadvantage because they are the ones who really need sanitizers and wipes, not able-bodied people.

Regan Thibodeau shared an important PSA that does apply to everyone–however, it is especially helpful for the DeafBlind community and interpreters who work with DeafBlind community members or in medical settings. Reliance on sanitizers and wipes are giving able-bodied people a false sense of security because they think those products are helpful in Coronavirus prevention when in reality all sanitizers and wipes are really good for is bacterium and not viruses (which is what Coronavirus is). It is for that reason sanitizers and wipes do not (and could never) replace hand washing for able-bodied people, but they are the best solution for people with disabilities who are not able to access sinks. Thibodeau also shared DIY anti-bacterial hand sanitizer alternates in her vlog. 

Is it possible that NAD has decided not to make their own statement because the World Federation of the Deaf [WFD] released a joint statement with the World Association of Sign Language Interpreters [WASLI] to reassure the Deaf community that they have the right to access to information and health care services during this time? An excerpt from the statement says: “The WFD and WASLI remind governments on all levels of their commitments under the Convention on the Rights of Peoples with Disabilities (CRPD) to ensure full access to information and accessibility to all services under CRPD Articles 9 and 21.” (Joint Letter – Joseph Murray)

The National Association of the Deaf is the nation’s premier civil rights organization of, by and for Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals in the United States, and they are also an affiliate of the World Federation of the Deaf [WFD].