The world is different now with the COVID-19 pandemic which means our existing best practices policies may need to be modified. To address this concern, the NAD has developed several advocacy letters and position statements for COVID-19 related situations. Areas include: access to information, medical, employment, education, and understanding the COVID-19 pandemic in ASL. Our list of areas is not comprehensive as more issues and situations will come up; when they do, the NAD will develop respective policy statements and advocacy letters. Explore NAD.org/coronavirus and find completed and upcoming position statements and advocacy letters. While these are challenging times, our civil rights cannot stop. #AskHoward
VIDEO DESCRIPTION & TRANSCRIPT: NAD CEO Howard A. Rosenblum sits at his desk. The NAD logo appears on the bottom right as a watermark.
HOWARD: The world is different now with the coronavirus pandemic. The NAD has a Policy Institute that has worked hard on developing many policies, that continues the work done by other people who have served on policy committees and gave us their input, expertise, and knowledge. The policy committees and the NAD Policy Institute have focused on developing various best practice policies for entities to follow to accommodate deaf and hard of hearing people pursuant to their rights. With the coronavirus pandemic however, the existing best practices policies do not apply right now because the world is so different. Even though the NAD headquarters is closed does not mean we are waiting and not working! Since the pandemic started, we have been working remotely and we are receiving a lot more calls and emails. The NAD staff has been putting in more hours to keep up with the increase of different issues that have been brought to our attention. I want to share with you that we’ve developed new policy documents for coronavirus related situations. For example, we’ve recently completed policy guidelines, in collaboration with other organizations, for hospitals on how they should provide communication access for deaf and hard of hearing patients during the coronavirus pandemic. Normally, hospitals are to provide qualified ASL interpreters, VRI, CART, and other accommodations when requested. However, hospital procedures have changed because of coronavirus. Now because of the pandemic, hospitals are not allowing outside people in such as visitors or families, and they are not allowing interpreters either. This makes it difficult for us to have communication access at the hospital. There have been some hospitals who allow interpreters in but do not provide them with any personal protective equipment (PPE). That makes the interpreters uncomfortable to take the assignment, and we can’t blame them for wanting to be safe. To address this, a number of organizations and experts worked together to develop two things. One is a position statement for hospitals to know what the best practices are to communicate with deaf and hard of hearing patients during the coronavirus pandemic. The other document is an advocacy letter for deaf and hard of hearing people to use and be better prepared if they need to go to the hospital either for coronavirus or other reasons, during the pandemic. The document includes a placard you can show to medical personnel. You can view both policy documents on NAD.org. This is for communication access in healthcare situations such as hospitals during coronavirus. We’re also working on telehealth. Many doctors are providing care to patients through teleconference, instead of in-person appointments. However, are they providing interpreters? How are they providing communication access? Doctors may not know how to provide access during telehealth appointments so that’s what our policy documents on telehealth explains. Again, this is a collaborative effort with other organizations and experts. We are creating two documents, one is a position statement and the other one will be an advocacy letter — they are being shared soon. Another area we’re working on is for deaf and hard of hearing children who are currently in Pre-K-12 educational setting. Deaf schools and programs for the deaf are mindful of what it takes to provide remote education in a visual way to connect with their students. However, this may not be the case for deaf and hard of hearing students who are mainstreamed. Before the pandemic, they may have had ASL interpreters as the only deaf student in the classroom or maybe with few other deaf students. Now that schools have gone remote, what do their accommodations look like? Are schools providing ASL Interpreters or captions in their video conference meetings? That’s what we’re working on now, one document will be for schools to know what best practices are and the other document will be for deaf and hard of hearing students and their families on how they can advocate for themselves to get full access to remote education. The fourth area we’re working on is for colleges and universities. Universities like Gallaudet University, NTID, CSUN, and others with strong deaf student services are already familiar on how to provide accommodations for remote learning but what about other universities that have one or few deaf students? What we’re doing for Pre-K-12, we’re doing the same — a policy statement for universities on best practices and an advocacy paper for deaf and hard of hearing students to advocate for access. This is also a collaborative effort, we’re working with other organizations and experts for that area as well. The fifth area we’re working on is for the workplace. Some deaf people have lost jobs and we’re figuring out how to support them. As for other deaf people who work in a hearing environment, before the pandemic they would typically receive accommodations for their in-person meetings with the use of interpreters or VRS calls or other options. With the pandemic, most of them are working remotely and they are meeting through the use of different video conferencing platforms such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Webex, Adobe Connect, Google Hangout, and the like. Are these video conferencing platforms accessible? Do the platforms have an ability to add ASL interpreters and/or captioning? Will the employer hire ASL interpreters for the video conference? This is another collaborative effort with other organizations and experts to put together a policy statement for companies as well as an advocacy letter for deaf and hard of hearing employees. And, the sixth area we’re working on is for the courthouse. Usually, people can request accommodations such as interpreters or captioning ahead of time before they go into the court for cases. With the pandemic, courtrooms have also gone remote. But do courtrooms know how to provide accommodations remotely? We are also working with other organizations and experts such as courthouse staff and law firms to figure out best practices during the coronavirus pandemic. We are also supporting efforts of DeafBlind people to develop a different policy of best practices for hospital access because their needs are different from other deaf and hard of hearing people. We agree their needs are important and are supporting their policy development. That effort adds to our list of current projects we’re working on. Our list is not comprehensive, we know more issues and situations will come up and we will develop respective policy statements and advocacy letters. Those documents will be available on NAD.org/coronavirus. I know these are challenging times, even more so for deaf and hard of hearing people. Our civil rights cannot stop. This includes our right to ASL interpreters during any government briefings about the coronavirus pandemic. We must continue our efforts which have succeeded in convincing all 50 state Governors to provide interpreters! However, that isn’t the case for the White House and we will continue to push for access with the White House press briefings. It is important that we all stay safe and healthy. Thank you.
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