The Impact of Covid-19 on the Deaf Community

The Sign Language word for COVID-19 mimics the shape of the virus that has penetrated global consciousness over the last few months. The sign, an open hand over a fist, is reminiscent of the circular shell and protruding spikes, or coronas, the virus is known for. COVID-19 is sweeping the globe and affecting our lives and routines. The Deaf community is being affected in ways we might not realize.

Lack of Access to Information

Hearing people get incidental knowledge from the television, radio, or conversation snippets. The challenge in the deaf community is with their access to information. It’s already bad enough with trying to make sure that everybody gets all the right information, because there’s so much misinformation put out there.

In a time where Sign Language Interpreters are seen standing next to various ministers and leaders as they provide updates on how the government is fighting this virus, many Deaf still lack access to vital information about the coronavirus. Videos about the political ramifications of this virus or the impact it is having on the economy are non-existent.

Most Deaf can read, but for most of them English is their second or third language. Additionally, due to the highly collective nature of the Deaf community, most Deaf prefer to process information in groups.  Group processing provides individuals with the opportunity to ask questions and discuss their opinions until they come to a complete understanding of the topic.

 Social Distancing has a Massive Impact

90% of Deaf children are born to hearing parents who often do not know Sign Language, so they are the only minority group to be born to parents not of their minority. Now that schools for the Deaf and many events have been cancelled, the Deaf are experiencing a lack of socialization with other members of their own minority. Many deaf learners are now being “home-schooled” by parents who cannot fluently communicate with them in their own language.

The Deaf who are in old aged homes are worst affected as most of the other inhabitants cannot communicate with them. They are not allowed to visit or receive visitors and often do not have the technology / know-how on connecting with loved ones on the outside.

Face-to-face communication is vital to the Deaf community. Zoom calls can be really tiring because when a deaf person is on a video call, they cannot look away from the screen for an instant. If the video freezes it is easy to lose track of what is being said. Using your eyes that intensively for a long period is very tough and tiring.

Deaf often depend on the Deaf community for their socialization and sense of belonging. For them the Deaf community often takes precedence over their birth family. They feel more connected and more at home with that family because they share a culture and a language. I believe that with the movement from Level 3 to Level 2 of the lockdown most Deaf will visit their Deaf friends first.

Social Challenges

 Gender-based violence and depression have increased. Stress levels soar as job losses and consequent financial crises are on the rise. There is an enormous need for personal counselling, and we are inundated with requests to assist the Deaf in crises. DEAF Friendly is known to assist the Deaf.  Our average request rate over the last few years was 3 requests daily. It has now increased to an average of 16 per day! The Deaf are in desperate need of assistance in all spheres of life.

 Being Part of the Solution

In any form of crisis or trauma, people communicate best in their ‘mother tongue’ and therefore we are making sure that information is available in Sign Language. DEAF Friendly assistance now include:

  • Summaries of the Presidential addresses to the nation.
  • “Is it true?” service. The Deaf are invited to send rumours or news snippets to us. We will then research whether that is true or false. This seems to be specifically helpful when it comes to rules in the workplace and grants that are being announced.
  • The Deaf are prepared for a hospital visit.We direct them to take communication supplies such as pen and paper, a small whiteboard or a smartphone to the hospital, as well as medical placards describing their disability and explaining how they can communicate with providers.
  • In principle we help families with Deafness with R250.00 per week.
  • Where and when food parcels are available, we ensure that the Deaf get their share.
  • Where applicable, assistance is given in applying for grants.

Funding to provide crucial resources have taken a hit, but we do our utmost to serve and assist.  Salaries have been cut by 25% and savings, specifically from travel cuts, are passed on to those in distress.

Church Life

Most congregations for the Deaf are relatively small and therefore Sunday sermons are now continuing at most of our ministry partners. Church has become an absolute weekly highlight for some whilst others are simply too afraid to go out and socialize. Tithing and offerings have more than halved since March 2020.

Please Pray with Us

Pray that the Deaf will know God is with them through this crisis.  Pray that they may find opportunities to socialize and use their heart language.

Thank you for your time, prayers, and commitment.

In His Team!

Past. Dirk Venter

Deaf Friendly is a specialised AFM Ministry that aims to seek, serve and enable the Deaf with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Deaf Friendly has increased its assistance to the Deaf by eight-fold during the Covid-19 lockdown.

👉 Please inform Deaf Friendly of any Deaf in distress so that we can follow up with as much assistance as we possibly can.

Your contribution enables DEAF Friendly to perform according to our calling.

Contact Dirk Venter for further details: [email protected]

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