New Survey Shows Maryland Leads in Equitable Access for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing During COVID-19 Pandemic State Agencies Work to Provide Inclusivity, Build Trust Among Deaf and Hard of Hearing Marylanders
ANNAPOLIS, MD– The Governor’s Office of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and the Maryland Department of Disabilities touted the results of the Health Signs Center nationwide survey assessing the experiences in information access regarding the COVID-19 pandemic for 351 Deaf people across 10 states in America. Results revealed strengths in Maryland’s performance with Deaf Marylanders responded more favorably in nearly all categories of the COVID-19 access survey including interpreting and captioning access at press conferences, trustworthiness in American Sign Language-translated online information, the provision of qualified Deaf interpreters, and the state’s inclusivity of the Deaf in emergency preparedness.
Overall, the Health Signs Center survey showed 54% of Deaf Marylanders said they felt their needs were represented by the state Deaf and hard of hearing office, while only 25% of those surveyed from all ten states felt this way. On knowing where to find COVID-19 testing, Marylanders were more likely to know this information (88%) compared to the survey average (80%), and Maryland showed significant performance in providing Deaf interpreters with 89% of respondents indicating so, while only 62% of the surveyed population received access through Deaf interpreters. In addition, Maryland residents were more likely to find ASL-translated information to be trustworthy with 42% of respondents indicating they trust this information “a lot,” while only 29% of Deaf people surveyed in all ten states found it to be “very” trustworthy.
“Access to information related to the pandemic is vital and empowers our communities to better handle these unprecedented circumstances,” said Governor Hogan. “The Deaf community deserves this same access in American Sign Language, and our agencies remain committed to providing interpreters, captioning, and other means of equitable access to essential information.”
Survey results showed that 17.5% of Deaf people in nine states expressed complete satisfaction with access services in their state during the pandemic while Marylanders report feeling completely satisfied (33%) and mostly satisfied (49%). Likewise, only 12% of the participants in the other nine states said their state government emergency preparedness and policies were inclusive to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community, while 40% of Marylanders answered “yes” to this question.
The Governor’s Office of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing coordinated interpreters for the Governor’s press conferences, provided follow up summary videos in ASL and visual graphics on their social media channels, ensured captioning was available, fielded constituent queries on COVID-19 and other questions, and built a warehouse of website resources providing critical access for Deaf and hard of hearing Marylanders.
“Making critical content fully accessible and equitable for Maryland’s Deaf and hard of hearing is a priority for Governor Hogan, and this data shows that Maryland is flourishing on this front,” said Governor’s Office of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Director Kelby Brick. “The governor regularly invited Certified Deaf Interpreters to his press conferences, provided captioning, and directed agencies to conduct outreach and offer additional tools providing equitable access. We are proud of Maryland’s success and thrilled to continue this good work.”
The Maryland Department of Disabilities (MDOD) deployed accessible emergency preparedness kits, with the help of Maryland Department of Human Services, to all of Maryland’s mass vaccination centers, which included communication devices and tablets with multiple video remote interpreter (VRI) sites preloaded, making accessible communication available immediately. MDOD also provided small group, hands-on training to front line staff and coordinators on the use of devices and VRI. During the first three months of deployment, more than 360 ASL interpreter sessions using VRI were utilized by Marylanders who are Deaf and hard of hearing and more than 150 VRI training sessions were held.
“This is the largest emergency deployment of assistive technology we have done in Maryland,” said MDOD Secretary Carol A. Beatty. “We continue to work in partnership with our fellow state agencies to make communication accessible.”
The Health Signs Center recommends government agencies reach out to Deaf experts and CDIs to work together to create meaningful and clear content as 75% of the surveyed Deaf population in Maryland shared that they would watch more videos in American Sign Language if they featured Deaf field experts, and 72% of Deaf Marylander respondents shared that having a Certified Deaf Interpreter (CDI) team would encourage them to remain apprised of COVID-19 content. Finally, 65% of those surveyed feel having a diverse representation in signers is of high importance to the Deaf community.
About the Governor’s Office of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
The Governor’s Office of the Deaf & Hard of Hearing serves as a coordinating office that advises the governor on issues related to the Deaf and hard of hearing population. The office advocates for and promotes the general welfare of Deaf and hard of hearing individuals in Maryland by addressing policy gaps, providing expertise related to Deaf and hard of hearing issues, and facilitating access to resources and services. Learn more by visiting our website at odhh.maryland.gov and connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.