Jackson man shares how COVID-19 affects him as a deaf person

September is National Deaf Awareness Month, and today I stopped by the Jackson Center of Independent Living, JCIL and spoke to one man who is hard of hearing. He says the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about many challenges he’s never seen before.

As Jerry sat with an interpreter of JCIL, Lisa Cepparulo, we discussed how the COVID-19 pandemic affects the hear and deaf impaired communities.

According to Payne, people with hearing disabilities rely heavily on mouth movements and facial expressions to communicate with those who do not use sign language. Now that masks are required, that is very difficult to do.

“The masks are, I feel, are stealing something from me. We depend on our facial expressions and so have to wear the mask, if you’re laughing or look sad, we don’t know.

Payne was born deaf to hard of hearing parents, so growing up, ASL was the only language used in his home. Before the pandemic, he spent a lot of time with his mother. But now, things are different.

“I don’t get to see my mother or visit her as often. Because she is in a nursing home, we visit through the window. Luckily, we can sign to each other that way. But I still feel that disconnect from her.”

Studies show that deaf people with deaf parents have a strong bond. Even though Payne can still see his mother, a window visit is not the same.

But there’s just something about being in person that you can be connected to somebody.

While the pandemic is challenging, Payne takes time to learn something new every day.

Well, I never thought this virus would come up. Every day I feel like I’m learning something new, and I’ve had to focus on myself,” said Payne.

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