State proposing $2-million of pandemic relief funds to improve COVID services, communication for CT’s deaf, hard-of-hearing community

Hartford

WEST HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Imagine trying to keep up with constantly changing information in the middle of a pandemic if you can’t hear or see. Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz stopped by the American School for the Deaf Wednesday to highlight challenges during the COVID-19 for that community and what she wants to be done about it.

During the pandemic, some communities felt left out.

Jeffrey Bravin, the executive director for the American School for the Deaf told News 8, “Access to information online is not accessible necessarily to the deaf and hard of hearing community so we want to make that investment.”

Now, the Lamont Administration wants to use $2-million in federal pandemic relief funds to increase support services for this vulnerable group, including those at West Hartford’s American School for the Deaf.

Bravin added, “We had the very first permanent deaf school in America. That was one standard.
And we have so many more standards that Connecticut will continue to set.”

One of the challenges they’re hoping to correct: investing in clear masks.

LT. Governor Bysiewicz said, “It’s been hard to read lips or interpret signs when someone is wearing a mask. And we know that virtual meetings and gatherings often don’t provide key technology needed for people who are deaf.”

The lt. governor says efforts are already underway to better support the deaf community.

Wednesday, Hartford Hospital held COVID-19 vaccine clinics for students 12 and up who just last week became eligible for the vaccine.

An American School for the Deaf student talked to us while they were getting the shot, “Today, I’m getting my vaccine because I want to protect myself from COVID-19.”

A key way officials plan to improve services going forward is by investing in communication.

Amy Porter, the commissioner for the State Department of Aging and Disability Services said, “If you think about how quickly the pace changed. How quickly the information changed. When you’re trying to make accessible videos, make videos available in American sign language. By the time you get the video done the information has changed.”

These proposals still need to be approved by the state legislature.

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