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WEB EXCLUSIVE: Protecting Silent Communication

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YUMA, Ariz., (KYMA, KECY) -1.1. million people in Arizona live with a hearing loss including those who are deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind, and a combination of vision and hearing difficulties, according to the Arizona Commission for the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing.

In California, the number nearly triples at 3 million residents living with a hearing loss.

Between both states, this leaves a large amount of people with limited access to information during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sherri Collins, Executive Director for the Arizona Commission for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing (ACDHH) says she has received a lot of feedback from the ACDHH community during this time.

A vast majority of the comments included the lack of interpreters from media outlets since closed captioning is not always verbatim.

"When you see some of the video, it is not accurate captioning because it’s utilizing speech recognition which is not accurate. The technology is not there yet for accurate captioning," said Collins.

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey and California's Governor Gavin Newsom include interpreters in their daily briefings, but that's not the case at The White House.

According to CNN, after receiving "daily complaints," the National Association of the Deaf -- the largest deaf advocacy group in the US -- and the National Council on Disability (NCD) sent letters to the White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham urging the White House coronavirus task force to use American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters during its daily briefings.

Deaf husband and wife Steven and Laycnda Martinez say the lack of American Sign Language (ASL) is especially prevalent in smaller cities including Yuma.

“In Phoenix, for example, they must have an interpreter there always. That's the requirement. But here I’ve kind of found out that sometimes it’s not allowed because it’s a more rural area, so that’s a big problem for us because we have a pretty big deaf community here that needs access to interpreters," said Martinez.

In the near future, the ACDHH organization says they hope to create a partnership with the state and work to ensure the deaf and hard of hearing community are receiving the appropriate information and accessibility they need. As well as, including interpreters in all news briefings local and nationwide.

News 11 continues to provide full closed captioning for the hearing impaired.

ACDHH encourages anyone with comments or questions to reach out to their offices. They provide a COVID-19 resource page on their website, linked here.

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Dominique Newland

Dominique joined KYMA in June 2019 as a Sunrise anchor. She was born in New Jersey but raised in Carmel, Indiana.

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