HILO, HI–Staff at the Kilauea Disaster Recovery Center learned the importance of providing equal access to deaf survivors during a unique demonstration that was presented in American Sign Language and interpreted by a FEMA team of ASL/Certified Deaf Interpreters (ASL/CDI).
Alicia McClurkan noted disaster survivors are usually distressed when visiting a DRC. For a deaf survivor unable to communicate in a spoken language, the recovery can be even more challenging. The ASL/CDI staff offer help to deaf, hard-of-hearing and deaf-blind survivors who use sign language as their primary means of communication.
During McClurkan’s presentation at the DR-4366-HI recovery center, two reasonable accommodation interpreters, Laura Forbes and Daniel Wynne, worked with her. Forbes interpreted McClurkan’s sign language presentation into spoken English (called voicing); Wynne signed to interpret audience questions for McClurkan.
As a fourth generation deaf person, McClurkan said her primary language has always been ASL.
ASL/CDI teams became part of FEMA’s External Affairs cadre in January 2018. They provide interpreting services at disaster recovery centers to assist deaf survivors understand what is being communicated to them.
When a deaf survivor visits a DRC without ASL/CDI coverage, the Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) app on the mobile tablet in the DRC’s accessibility kit can be used to set up a return appointment, or inform the survivor an interpreter is en route.
ASL/CDI teams may also provide interpreting services for mitigation outreach efforts at the big box stores, at speaker bureau events, for press conferences or interviews on traditional and social media, and during home inspections to verify disaster damage.