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Small changes, big results

Learn how the COVID-19 pandemic sparked unintended but welcome changes for the Deaf community and how to build on the progress made.
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Over the past few years, it’s become much more commonplace to see sign language interpreters presenting on TV during live broadcasts, particularly during the height of COVID-19 as Canadians kept up with daily briefings—many of which were interpreted by PHSA’s Scott Jeffery, who also works as a freelance interpreter in addition to his role with Provincial Language Services (PLS) as lead, language access. Since then, there has been a noticeable shift toward more inclusive approaches that have extended far beyond broadcast television. Sign language interpreters are slowly but surely becoming a staple at workplace events, meetings and more.

“It’s about time,” says Scott. “This is what the Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing (DDBHH) community have wanted for decades. With the inclusion of sign language interpreters during live broadcasts, COVID-19 has opened the door for DDBHH people to feel included.”
Picture: Scott Jeffery interpreting a live broadcast.
Scott was hired by PLS in the Spring of 2020. As a person who is Deaf, he understands the unique challenges faced by the DDBHH community when accessing medical care and has been working hard to cement a relationship between PLS and the DDBHH community.

“DDBHH individuals have a legal right to access sign language interpreters, intervenors and CART services at their medical appointments and it’s my job to make sure these services are available for those who need them. In this role, I support the development and maintenance of accessible health care programs and services across the province. I also collaborate with clinical, site operations and program representatives on how to meet the needs of linguistically and culturally diverse clients, including immigrants, refugees, official minority language speakers and members of the DDBHH community.”

As health professionals, providing equitable care is always going to be a top priority. But it’s also important to consider our own DDBHH colleagues and team members who may also need additional support in the workplace. While the pandemic has certainly renewed public awareness about the importance of accessibility and inclusion, it’s up to us to sustain the momentum in our daily practice.

“I have been so grateful to see sign language interpreters included at PHSA Town Halls so that myself and also our expanded PLS team members who are also Deaf can participate in these events that are normally very challenging and isolating for people like me. With small changes like the addition of closed captions and the inclusion of an interpreter, we can finally feel included and that’s huge.”

Building on our progress

For Scott, his hope is that we continue to see progress being made when it comes to creating a more accessible world. To learn more about PLS’ services, visit their website.

SOURCE: Small changes, big results ( )
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