Coronavirus COVID-19 Deaf Disability Hearing Impaired Japan

As the pandemic continues, Nagoya based groups for the Deaf and hearing impaired raise concerns about masks hindering communication

As the new coronavirus spreads, a group of people concerned in Nagoya city, say "We have collected the real voices of people with hearing disabilities in the coronavirus disaster." Wearing masks and other measures to prevent infection seem to be detrimental to the communication of deaf and deaf-blind people, who read words from the movement of their mouths and the shape of their fingers.

From The Chunichi Shimbun

April 18 2021

NAGOYA As the new coronavirus spreads, a group of people concerned in Nagoya city, say “We have collected the real voices of people with hearing disabilities in the coronavirus disaster.” Wearing masks and other measures to prevent infection seem to be detrimental to the communication of deaf and deaf-blind people, who read words from the movement of their mouths and the shape of their fingers.

Late March, in conference room in Nagoya City, four organizations, the City Council for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, the City Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, the Nagoya Association for the Support of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and the NPO Aichi Deaf-Blind Friendship Association, gathered to discuss the consultations they had received at the Corona disaster. Not only did they use sign language, but they also shifted their masks so that they could see the movements of their mouths and read the words of the interpreters by touching their hands. It is only through close contact that communication can be established.

A Deaf person in a nursing home cannot see his friends or family, and there is no one nearby who understands sign language. “Deaf people in nursing homes cannot see their friends or family and have no one nearby who understands sign language. I can’t see my mouth because of the mask and I can’t read conversations, but it’s hard to say ‘take it off’.” “I couldn’t read the benefit documents from the government and threw them away.

The common thread in all these cases is the “information barrier”. Vaccination also came up on the agenda, with participants saying, “People with disabilities have less autonomy to decide for themselves. We want to create an environment where people with disabilities can be independent and not just be in the care of those around them.

On April 15, the four groups submitted a letter of request to the City of Nagoya regarding vaccinations. They asked for written communication at vaccination sites, sign language interpreters and summary transcribers, as well as the provision of information via videos with subtitles and sign language. A city official said, “We will make arrangements to dispatch interpreters and others to mass vaccination sites. We would like to discuss how to provide information, such as videos, with the countermeasures office,” he said.

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