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Vaccine clinics for the deaf create access for people with hearing loss

Posted at 1:39 PM, Apr 27, 2021

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Sangita Kami might be afraid of needles, but she is all smiles after getting her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

What makes her even happier is that everyone, from the greeters to the person giving her a shot, speaks her language.

“The access here is so nice,” said Kami.

This pop-up vaccine clinic in Rochester, New York is for the deaf.

“Deaf people who already have the vaccine have mentioned how frustrating it is to navigate that system,” said Donna Neligan Barret.

Barret works with a group called Deaf Refuge Advocacy and is one of the clinic's organizers. Having accessible clinics for the deaf is a big deal everywhere, but especially in Rochester.

“We are the biggest deaf community in the world,” explained Barret.

Rochester has the highest deaf population per capita in the world. That has a lot to do with the city being home to large colleges for the deaf.

For Barret and the deaf community here, the need for accessibility in health care is evident.

“Having a deaf physician or having a deaf pharmacist, having a deaf nurse, having a deaf doctor, can really provide direct communication. Oftentimes, there can be miscommunication with an interpreter. Interpreters aren’t bad, but there is the possibility of miscommunication,” said Barret.

“It is so nice to be here in America, where there are so many interpreters, especially Rochester, it is the best,” a woman from Puerto Rico said.

She is taking advantage of the access by getting her shot.

“I am very excited. I’m relieved. I’m really happy to be vaccinated. Oh man, I want to be able to protect myself and the people around me,” she said.

That’s a sentiment most of us share whether you’re deaf or not.