USA (MNN) — When natural disasters strike, there are obstacles everyone affected must face. How do I find clean water? Where can I go for safety? How do I get there? However, for the Deaf community, the hurdles they encounter add an additional layer to their situation and make relief and information difficult to access.
For example, the American Sign Language interpreter at a news conference was supposed to communicate the announced mandatory evacuation for part of Manatee County, Florida. However, Jason Hurdich, a Clemson University professor and ASL interpreter, says he couldn’t understand 95 percent of what the interpreter was saying. Many were shocked at the lack of care taken to get a qualified ASL interpreter for such an important announcement. The failure in ASL communication for the Manatee County residents who are deaf or hard of hearing was a dire mistake that jeopardized their safety and their lives.
Deaf Bible Society is based in Arlington, Texas and says when Hurricane Harvey struck the state, Deaf residents faced additional hurdles that their hearing neighbors didn’t have to deal with.
Jason Suhr with Deaf Bible Society explains, “We have needs in the Deaf community, but we struggle most of the time with communication. We tend to depend on technology or, if we need to, paper and pencil. But you know the question is, with paper, if you can find it and find a dry one in that situation. So we feel that the issue is really preventing a lot of good communication.”
The struggle to communicate in disaster situations is a big one. It makes the difference in how easy or hard it is for the Deaf to get food, water, safety announcements, shelter, spiritual encouragement, and legal assistance – just to name a few.
That’s why Deaf Bible Society is stepping up to provide aid and relief for Deaf Texans who have been affected by Hurricane Harvey.
“We’re working with local churches in the Houston, Texas area. There’s one, Woodhaven Church of the Deaf and the other one is Champion Forest Baptist Church. We’ve been in touch with them to get in touch with the local Deaf community about their needs.”
Suhr says that some specific needs in the Deaf community right now are “access to communication,…water, food, places to move to, or after everything is done, to help with some of the building costs as well. And of course, with local churches getting together, we can really serve the spirit of support and encouragement in this time of chaos.”
Deaf Bible Society has set up a GoFundMe to raise support for the needs of the Deaf community in Texas’ hurricane-hit areas. Their funding goal is to raise $20,000 and currently they have nearly one-quarter of the funds collected.
Even if you can’t give, Suhr asks, “Pray that people would be touched to donate to that as well, and pray for the Deaf community to find groups that they can connect with and that can help them as well with their situation.”