Oklahoma Deaf Community Impacted By Coronavirus Pandemic

Monday, May 18th 2020, 9:04 pm
By: Brooke Griffin

TULSA, Okla. - Oklahoma’s deaf community has also been impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Imagine not being able to call or Facetime your loved ones during the outbreak, that’s what it’s like for the deaf and hard of hearing during quarantine. People have heavily relied on phone calls for the past few months, but that isn’t an option for everyone.

Maria Smits has a daughter that’s deaf and said Facetime and Zoom calls just haven’t worked as well as she hoped.

“Sometimes we try to video but sometimes technology breaks you can’t really see the signing at times,” Smits said.

Smits said her daughter is part of a group for the deaf and hard of hearing that used to meet every week for what they call “silent dinner” Since the coronavirus outbreak, they haven’t met in person since January.

The group could meet in various public spots without wearing masks, but they have to be close to each other to see sign language and read lips.

“For deaf people they like to see each other because they can communicate better, when someone is talking and someone else comes in, they look forward to those meetings so they can see each other,” Smits said.

The group now has a video chat scheduled every Friday, but since it doesn’t work as well, they hope to meet in person again soon.

“She’s looking forward to silent coffee to see all her friends, she misses them and wants to see their faces,” Smits said. “She wants to give them a hug, but even being somewhere they can see each other safely they would appreciate.”

She said her daughter is holding out hope they can meet again soon and put the silence of Covid-19 in the past.

Smits said if you know someone who is deaf or hard of hearing, send them a text or picture to remind them they aren’t alone during this time.