Monday, September 05, 2005

no information: deaf in the hurricane

and isn't it ironic - hurricanes have eyes?

From the North Virginia Resource Center:

Katrina Experiences Sought

During the past week, many individuals, organizations and agencies have contacted NVRC to ask what we are learning about the experiences of deaf and hard of hearing people during hurricane Katrina and recovery efforts. During the first three days after the storm hit New Orleans we heard very little. With telephone lines down in the affected areas, wireless devices not working, and no electricity, all of the people in Katrina's path were struggling to survive and all communication was difficult.

The hearts of all our staff and Board go out to all those who have suffered during this terrible disaster, and our prayers are with you.

Stories are now starting to trickle in. We've seen a news report about a family searching for a deaf woman who was working as a caretaker in New Orleans and left behind, with no information about what was going on, when the person she was caring for was evacuated. We've heard about a late-deafened woman in hard-hit section of Florida who lost power but was able to depend on a hearing roommate who listened to a battery-operated radio for information.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported on the arrival at the Houston Astrodome of a man who was evacuated from New Orleans with his deaf daughter, and her daughter. The granddaughter uses a wheelchair that had to be left behind. They had been rescued by a National Guard boat.

A deaf couple was able to weather Katrina and recovery by staying at a daughter's house, using her RV and getting information from friends by pager when their TTY's battery died after 24 hours.

So, what's being done about all these Deaf people, many of whom seem to be stranded without communication? Remember, Deaf people come from all classes and all walks of life: I have met Deaf people in NYC who can't afford televisions who did NOT know about the hurricane. Not inconceivable NOLA had a few of these. NVRC continues:

The Louisiana School for the Deaf is reported to be providing a temporary place for deaf people who are homeless, serving meals and washing clothes. However, the school could not take people who had health problems or require medication. There are also reports that many deaf people in Louisiana lost their homes and all their possessions, and some are now in the Houston Astrodome, feeling lost without communication and unsure where to turn for help.

Local news in one area of Louisiana does not have captioning or other visual information, so people who are deaf and hard of hearing are having to get their information from national news programs, just like so many of those in New York on 9/11. Unfortunately, those national news programs do not provide specific information about what is going on in their local area as their local stations do.-this is a huge problem all over the country. local news agencies - NY1 is among them - do not provide closed captioning. it's not likely the money will appear for this with Bush in charge.

So what's NVRC doing to help? Well, they got the word out, which is good, and they are attempting to pull together a report to better inform authorities about the problems Deaf people face:

NVRC wants to continue documenting the experiences of individuals during their preparation for Katrina, the storm itself, and the recovery process. It is our hope that in passing on these accounts we can educate emergency planners, public officials, human service agencies, disaster relief organizations, first responders and others.

It seems that NVRC and other local organizations such as CEPIN have been working with CSD to lead in the preparation of relief for Deaf disaster victims from NOLA:


Assistance Available for Hurricane Victims who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing CEPIN Regional Centers Standing by to Assist Displaced Individuals and Families

Silver Spring, MD [September 2, 2005] – Emergency assistance plans have been put in place for Hurricane Katrina victims who are deaf or hard of hearing and their families. The Community Emergency Preparedness Information Network (CEPIN) Project has designated CSD of Oklahoma and Northern Resource Virginia Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Persons (NVRC) as CEPIN contact centers for Hurricane Katrina victims and their families.

Agencies serving deaf or hard of hearing individuals in the areas affected by Hurricane Katrina are reporting that their phone lines and offices are shut down for the time being. Coverage for pagers may be weak at times due to loss of network capabilities. As a result, people wanting to find information on recovery and rescue efforts in the areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina are encouraged in Louisiana or displaced westward in Texas to contact CSD of Oklahoma during regular business hours at: (click on locations, then Oklahoma)
(866) 845-7445 Voice/TTY (Toll Free)
(918) 835-7445 Voice/TTY
(918) 835-6459 FAX

“We have people standing by at the CEPIN regional center, which is being facilitated by CSD of Oklahoma Division Director Glenna Cooper," said Dr. Benjamin J. Soukup, CSD CEO. "We recognize that people who are deaf or hard of hearing are often overlooked in disaster recovery and rescue efforts, and we are working hard to ensure that this does not happen with Hurricane Katrina. CSD of Oklahoma is working closely with the local Red Cross and other appropriate organizations, and they will be able to provide assistance."

"In addition to the victims, our office is also providing support and resources to the responders and volunteers to ensure that deaf and hard of hearing refugees are getting much-needed assistance," added Soukup.

For those wanting information in other states affected by Katrina such as Florida, Alabama or Mississippi, and displaced refugees in the Mid-Atlantic area, contact Northern Virginia Resource Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Persons (NVRC).

"We are heartbroken seeing all the devastation that Katrina has brought upon people in the Gulf States, especially those who are deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind and late-deafened," said Cheryl Heppner, Executive Director of NVRC.

Heppner added, "As part of CEPIN, we are eager to work with organizations and agencies to ensure that people who are deaf or hard of hearing get the services they need, especially hearing aids or other devices vital to effective communication. At a time when their lives are turned upside down, we hope the last thing worry about is how they will be able to communicate with others."

NVRC may be contacted during regular business hours at:
(703) 352-9056 TTY
(703) 352-9055 Voice
(703) 352-9058 FAX

Volunteers who have experience in working with deaf and hard of hearing people and have training in First Aid, CPR, CERT, and other rescue efforts should contact one of the two regional centers to offer their services. The CEPIN website also has a list of statewide resources available here for the areas affected by the hurricane.

Thanks for NewYorkPack for that tip!

Anyone else preparing, donating or contributing to preparation for help for NOLA's Deaf disaster victims? NAD's page still has that letter up about the Mariott being okay, published August 31st. We've already seen what happens when we "leave the rescue efforts to professionals."

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