Alberta and the rest of Canada has been completely disrupted by the devastating effects of COVID-19. As we address one of the greatest challenges our province has faced in decades, the Deaf communities in Alberta are at a higher risk of contracting the virus and face potentially serious complications.
These are extremely challenging and difficult days. All of us are affected in one way or another by this COVID-19 pandemic. Our thoughts are constantly with those who are struggling most and the brave and committed Albertans who are selflessly caring for others in hospitals across the province.
With an aging population and one in ten Canadians living with deafness, it’s imperative that we ensure barriers are removed at every level of our response and recovery program at Calgary Association of the Deaf. The reality is that many people with deafness, and many seniors, live in isolation every day.
As our society collectively implements physical distancing measures, we are inadvertently introducing Albertans to what many Deaf people are already confronted with daily. With remote responsive and recovery program that Calgary Association of the Deaf offers along with, ASL Interpreters, online communications and virtual video calls becoming the new normal, we see seniors, low income Deaf Albertans and the Deaf communities quickly adapting to accommodate an unexpected situation. The measures we might have once dismissed as too costly or cumbersome to accommodate for a Deaf person including with other form of disability, an immune-compromised individual or someone with anxiety are now simply the way we all do to help them. In this new normal, we see what’s entirely possible, and that this flexibility benefits everyone. Our recent barriers is lack of technology available for those who do not have access to video communication by remotely. We need to provide more tablets for seniors, low- income individuals across the province to reach out to us for any program assistance to meet their essential needs.
Self-isolation brings its challenges to all of us, but it adds another layer of complexity for many Deaf people with communication challenges. While ordering your groceries online may seem like the right thing to do when practising physical distancing, consider that the increased volume of online orders means that grocery stores may have a four-week delivery wait time. Deaf people who depend on online deliveries can’t afford to wait that long to receive their necessities and this include getting their medications at the pharmacies. This is a great difficulty when it comes to communications with essential services to get their necessities to survive at home while in isolation. Tablets are needed to be provided to those who needs to communicate with us to receive their essential needs.
We have recently witnessed seniors who are in self-isolation in Calgary and southern Alberta, “we do a disservice to our most vulnerable people by getting caught up in the whole paranoia.” Deaf Seniors would like to urge people to simply buy what’s needed when visiting the grocery store. Consider that a senior individual who relies on their CPP and OAS cheques doesn’t receive it until the end of the month, and by the time they make it to the store many of the basics they’re looking for could be out of stock. This creates difficulty for them to obtain what they need to last them on a monthly basis.
Opening grocery stores an hour earlier is an example of a policy to help the most vulnerable in the community get access; however, it still doesn’t mean that everyone can. Some Deaf individuals who needs attendant care to get ready may not have access to assistance early in the morning. Calgary Association of the Deaf have a group of volunteers who would obtain the necessities for our Deaf seniors and those who are low income individuals by going to several stores to find these necessities for them.
Leadership also starts at the top. It’s helpful when all announcements from our governments and public health agencies are consistently communicated in the appropriate formats for people various disabilities and seniors. It’s encouraging to see leaders across the country delivering their messages in plain language and incorporating accessibility features such as sign language, captioning and relay services. This inclusive approach has a positive impact on everyone.
Many of us already feel the financial hardship of the pandemic, which also has an immediate trickle-down effect for Deaf people and seniors, their caregivers and their families. Whether it’s lost income for family members stepping in to fill the gap of a caregiver or staff shortages in group homes, we need to ensure there is immediate financial aid available in the form of extended EI caregiver benefits. This is not always the case; some individuals do not qualify for the financial benefits which is difficult for them to survive. This has resulted increased number of homelessness. The lessons learned from the courage, determination and resiliency of people who are struggling to deal with situations like this in their everyday lives can help us reach that higher bar. Just like everyone else, many Deaf individuals, including seniors, want to be connected and included, but some are not able to do so. There are so many barriers that Calgary Association of the Deaf is trying their hardest to remove this and it is difficult at the present moment.
Calgary Association of the Deaf is requesting donation to cover the cost of overhead expenses including ASL Interpreting costs and transportation costs to keep up with the Response and Recovery program to meet the needs of Deaf individuals in Southern Alberta. We need tablets to be provided to those who do not have access to video remote communications throughout Southern Alberta.
We are the only one agency providing trained American Sign Language (ASL) Interpreters to all levels of Government so they can reach the thousands of Deaf and hard of hearing Albertans that use ASL as their first language. We are providing ASL Services to the Deaf community in Southern Alberta to ensure they have communication access to all services including mental health, counselling, food hampers and much more. With your donation support, we will be able to continue with these essential services to meet the needs of Deaf individuals and families in Southern Alberta.