JOYCE: Hi! My name’s Joyce, and I’m d/Deaf. I was born d/Deaf, and I grew up in a d/Deaf family. I work for Deaf Aotearoa, and I’m a really strong participant in the d/Deaf community. Prior to the lockdown, when Jacinda Ardern was sharing information with the interpreter on the screen, it was great! So throughout the lockdown, the d/Deaf community were really relying on that information. But it was quite difficult to see the interpreter on the screen. And so Deaf Aotearoa was able to lobby and get the interpreter on a larger screen. So that was great. When we had the interpreter on the large screen it was just so much more relaxing.
MICHELLE: Hi! My name’s Michelle Smith. I’m the Community Coordinator for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. I think we didn’t get my support worker back until…it was about a week after level 2 started. The agency took probably two weeks before we got an official letter. I had actually already contacted, and basically expressed my disappointment. We just wanted to make sure that things were, you know, going to be okay. Not once did I hear from the coordinator, or anyone, even just to say “hey, are you guys managing okay?”
I think they could have done more. Surely they should’ve had systems in place to deal with all of that.
JONATHAN: Communications during lockdown were very hit and miss. Getting hold of the right information at the right time takes more effort for blind people than it does for sighted people. And at the very outset of lockdown, one of our major information sources closed. And that being the ability to receive information in audio or braille. And it took some time for Blind Citizens New Zealand to convince government officials that depriving blind people of information in our chosen format was actually a breach of our rights. So we were always operating behind everyone else. We couldn’t read what was being put on government websites because we were not digitally comfortable. If we couldn’t follow all the advertising that was coming through TV because it wasn’t actually informing us beyond the mere level of this is the most important thing to remember.
What about all the other questions we wanted answered? And so Blind Citizens New Zealand played a crucial role in making sure that blind people, albeit a little bit later than the general public, got the information that we needed.
JOYCE: A couple of d/Deaf volunteers from the community set up a Facebook page called ‘Deaf Positive’. So d/Deaf community members from all over New Zealand joined in, and they had a programme of different events. And then the Wellington Deaf Society also set up a Quiz Night via Zoom, and so we got the opportunity to meet other d/Deaf people throughout the country and then we’d get to chat with them and just make new friends online. But when we’d go out, maybe to the supermarket or ordering things online and then having to go out and pick items up, everyone out in the community had these masks on their face. People would try and speak to me and they’d have their masks on, and I would try and, you know, explain, I don’t know what you’re saying, because I’m d/Deaf. And I would use my phone to try and use text messaging to show them, but I wasn’t allowed too close so they couldn’t read it. I asked them for a pen and paper, and we weren’t allowed that either. So I was like how am I meant to understand what you’re saying, and that was a frustration and it happened a number of times. There is certainly a need for clear masks. There’s a number of different ideas and things that I’ve seen online. And also just those clear face shields that are a bit more like a head-band style, those should be made for the general public use because they’re much easier for d/Deaf people to be able to communicate with, rather than the face masks.
MICHELLE: Communication for me is one of the biggest things in life, regardless of what I’m doing. And I suppose I’ve got quite high standards around communication and customer service. I think everyone should provide me what I think I provide others, or I’d like to think that I provide others. Being in that provision of information service, it was really frustrating not having the same done to me. But I think you often deal with a bunch of people that, actually if it’s not working elsewhere, they just find another solution and get on with it. Which you shouldn’t have to do. Just disappointing. At a time when you needed information, you didn’t get it.
1 in 4 kiwis are disabled people; Our experience counts in COVID-19; Support our WHOLE team of 5 million; Share this story!
Disabled whānau were among the most affected by Covid-19 in Aotearoa and around the world, and many of us are still feeling the effects. But we have also led the way in inclusive pandemic responses, and have valuable lessons to share.
Episode 2 of our community video series shares Joyce, Michelle, and Jonathan’s communication experiences during Covid-19 Alert Levels 3 & 4.
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This video contains the following accessibility features: NZSL, Captions in English & te reo Māori; Audio Description.
The DPO Coalition acknowledges the contribution of all disability sector organisations to make sure that the wellbeing of, informational needs, and support for disabled people was monitored and improved upon throughout the impact of COVID-19.