Beijing News (新京报) has reported on an admirable effort to assist the hearing-impaired community of Wuhan during the lockdown of the city. The effort has been spearheaded by a small group of volunteers, many of them with hearing impairments themselves, who set up an informal charity group back in 2014. The group, named 守语者, aims to create “equal opportunities for communication” for the hearing-impaired community in the city.
The group’s leader, 30-year old Cui Jing, is the daughter of deaf parents. After the spread of the coronavirus in late January and the lockdown of the city, she quickly realized the urgency of the situation. The hard-of-hearing are particularly vulnerable in a public health crisis due to their communication barrier with the rest of society. If they are hospitalized, they find it hard to communicate with medical personnel, and often have to resort to writing. The problem is particularly serious in the case of the elderly, who sometimes have limited reading and writing abilities and may be almost completely limited to sign language. At this time, their children may live in other parts of the country and be unable to reach them due to the city’s closure. Many elderly people with hearing impairments have found it hard to even access news reports about the virus and the necessary precautions to take, especially if they live alone. Some of them did not even realize that the city had been placed under lockdown until days later, according to Cui Jing.
The small group of volunteers is doing its best to reach hearing-impaired people throughout the city by posting videos in Sign Language on WeChat, keeping them informed about the situation and giving advice. They have also created a WeChat group that includes over a hundred people with hearing-impairments who have sought their aid, most of them elderly. The volunteers help them to conduct their affairs during the lockdown through video calls, during which sign language can be used to help them negotiate with deliverymen or neighbourhood committees. The volunteers also received a batch of material from the Red Cross, including items like face masks and sterilizing tablets, and distributed the material to the homes of the hearing-impaired.