Previously, if someone who was deaf or had a severe hearing impairment was in a harmful situation, there weren’t many places to turn. Thanks to DeafLEAD, there are now free interpreting services for those who are deaf and in a crisis situation. DeafLEAD is a non-profit organization that “exists to provide individuals who are Deaf and hard of hearing with comprehensive, unified and continuous support by enhancing socio-emotional development, effective communication and leadership through education within the state of Missouri” (http://www.deafinc.org/deaflead/about.html).
The Deaf Crisis Line
DeafLEAD has been working on providing this crisis line since October, when they obtained funding from the Victims of Crime Act grant. Although it begun last year, the staff only became fully trained and the crisis line fully functional last month. The Deaf Crisis Line is accessible to Missouri residents who are deaf or have severe hearing loss to access the help they need, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. This crisis line is available for the deaf community to discuss and report a situation where they have been a victim of a crime or dangerous situation. For people in the deaf community, this crisis line is a wonderful sigh of relief, as people finally have the ability to communicate their concerns with someone who is fluent in American Sign Language.
Having someone fluent in your language is great, but even better is that these Deaf Crisis Line employees are fluent in the intricacies of deaf communities. Dawn Gallegos, a Deaf Crisis Line worker explains, “The deaf community itself tends to be cut off from the rest of the world”. She said hearing workers often “don’t understand deaf culture”. It’s hard enough to be in a stressful and tumultuous situation, and even more difficult to do so when you can’t fully express yourself and don’t feel fully understood.
Videophone Interpreting Services
Many times, women and children who are deaf or hard of hearing escape domestic violence situations only to be re-victimized again at shelters because no one can understand them. DeafLEAD has partnered with multiple shelters across the state of Missouri to install videophone capabilities available for residents to use. This technology allows not only deaf victims of crime or abuse, but also shelter workers, to accurately communicate via an ASL translator, 24 hours a day.
Here’s how it works. A deaf person dials the phone number of the person they wish to reach via the videophone. A trained ASL interpreter then appears on the screen. The interpreter will then connect the deaf person to the number they wanted to call. The sign language interpreter will fully translate the phone conversation. This service can also be used similarly for in-house shelter workers to better communicate with their deaf residents.
This much-needed service could not have come soon enough for Missouri residents. People who are deaf and have been abused are more likely to be re-victimized than their hearing counterparts. In fact, “children who are hard of hearing and experience maltreatment are five times more likely to experience it again later in their lives than people who can hear.” (https://www.columbiamissourian.com/news/state_news/deaflead-launches-services-to-aid-deaf-victims-of-crime/article_ab2074a2-fd31-11e7-8a22-eb889388797e.html).
In Person Interpreting Services
Beyond the videophone option, DeafLEAD also offers in-person interpreting services free of charge to anyone who is deaf or hearing impaired and has been a victim of a crime. DeafLEAD offers in-person services for things like doctor’s appointments, therapy sessions, or legal consultations. Most of the time appointments are needed (as far in advance as possible) but the interpreters will also show up in emergency situations where an ASL translator is needed as soon as possible – so do not hesitate to reach out in these instances as well.
Crystal Anderson-Hays, an interpreter for DeafLEAD says of the services, “we’re able to bridge the gap… to make it so they can — so that hearing people and deaf people, hearing people and hard of hearing people — can communicate.”
While the services are restricted to only those who have been victims of a crime or abuse, this does not have to be recent. DeafLEAD understands that trauma from a past victimization can also have an effect on a person years later – and the service is available to people in these situation as well.
For more information on DeafLEAD or the services they offer, visit their website here: http://www.deafinc.org/deaflead/index.html