The Tragedy in Lewiston – information in Polish Sign Language

In October 2023, in the city of Lewiston, USA, a shooting occurred, resulting in the deaths of, among others, 4 deaf individuals and a sign language interpreter. How has this tragedy affected the local deaf community? What additional safety issues do deaf individuals face in the USA compared to those who can hear? Answers can be found in this video.

Shooting at Deaf Gathering

In October, a tragedy unfolded in the city of Lewiston, USA. In a billiard hall filled with people, someone suddenly started shooting. Eighteen people lost their lives, including four deaf individuals and a sign language interpreter. This interpreter was well-known in the deaf community in the USA, as during the pandemic, he translated a significant amount of information related to the pandemic.

“Threats Arising from Hearing Impairment

After the shooting incident in the USA, a conversation about the safety of deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals began. What challenges do deaf people face in the USA and beyond, worldwide?

Imagine a situation similar to the one in the city of Lewiston: a group of people suddenly hears gunshots. Panic ensues, people run and hide—but these are actions taken by those who heard the shots. What about the deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals? They see everyone running, but what happened? Is someone shooting, and do they need to lie down, hide, or flee? If fleeing, which direction should they go? Where is the attacker? Perhaps it’s not gunshots but, for example, a collapsed wall. People are fleeing because they don’t know what’s happening, but maybe just leaving the building or even returning to help those trapped is enough. Or perhaps the fleeing people are just a result of panic—nothing happened, people heard a loud noise and started panicking. Or evacuation drills might be underway.

As we can see, there can be many reasons for a sudden evacuation from a place. Hearing individuals can hear what’s happening and react accordingly—flee, hide, calmly leave the area, or start providing assistance. Deaf individuals cannot hear what happened. If there are other people nearby, they may notice that something has occurred because others are running. But… if a deaf person is alone in some dangerous place, they may not be aware of the threat!

Live Information and Alerts in Sign Language

Another issue related to the tragedy in Lewiston was shared by a local deaf individual. He mentioned that after the tragedy, he wanted to find out if it was safe, if he could leave his home, if the perpetrator had been apprehended. He turned on the TV and looked for local news, but none of them were interpreted in sign language. Deaf individuals emphasize that they often receive sign language information with several hours of delay compared to hearing individuals.

Psychological Support for the Deaf

Another problem turned out to be the lack of psychological support in ASL for families and friends of the deceased deaf individuals. While hearing individuals receive support from psychologists, support for the deaf is challenging because there is a shortage of psychologists proficient in sign language to allow for free conversation without the need for an interpreter. A certain organization supporting the deaf states that only 2% of deaf individuals in need of mental health assistance receive such support!

Deaf organizations in the USA highlight that deaf people across the country know each other—often attending school together, working together, and participating in various organizations for the deaf. This means that the majority of deaf individuals in the country either knew someone who was killed or have friends who knew them. This further emphasizes the need for psychological support for the deaf.

Emergency Number for the Deaf

Another issue mentioned by the deaf in the USA is the emergency number: 911. However, not every state in the USA allows sending an SMS to this number. In some states, it is possible, while in others, it is not. This means that in some states, the deaf cannot call for help!”

Here, I would like to remind you that in Poland and throughout the European Union, the emergency number is 112. There is also a special application designed to call for help by writing — you can specify the type of assistance needed, the location, and more. Next to this message, you’ll find a video demonstrating how this application works. It’s true that the app has received various opinions, with many people criticizing it. However, it might be the only possible option to call for help, so it’s worthwhile to have it installed on your phone.

Safety of the Deaf

We also discussed the safety of the deaf in our 15th episode of the ‘What Do You Know About the Deaf?’ series, titled precisely ‘Safety of the Deaf.’ We mentioned, among other things, that if the alarm system relies solely on sound, deaf individuals simply won’t hear it, and consequently, won’t react as quickly as those who can hear. I warmly encourage you to watch the entire episode.

I have a question for you — do you know of other threats or situations where deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals are in a worse situation than those who can hear? Or do you have solutions to some problems related to the safety of deaf people? Let me know in the comments.

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