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March 19, 2007

Deaf Volunteers Find New Ways to Communicate

From: 13WHAM-TV - Rochester,NY,USA - Mar 19, 2007

Tricia Cruz (Rochester, N.Y.) -- When volunteers from the American Red Cross respond to a disaster, timing is critical. Communicating becomes the most important factor during the crisis and the biggest challenge for deaf or hard-of-hearing volunteers.
Pam Hatch is deaf and volunteers for the Red Cross.

"When I go out for fires, floods, or to Louisiana, I'm really working with all hearing people so I have to be able to judge the situation and know what is expected and know what kind of information I should ask,” she said.

Besides using sign language, Pam Hatch relied on her ability to read lips. Now she has also access to a new form of communication. a portable wireless console called an "Ubi Duo" that works like a laptop.

“If I'm stuck and that machine is there I can communicate with people on the rig or even the fire department if they want to get involved,” she said.

Hatch said when it comes to recruiting deaf or hard of hearing volunteers is convincing them they can be helpful.

Kathy Dollinger-Meyer was ready to accept the challenge.

She said, "I wanted to do something different, not just the deaf, I wanted to do something in the community."

Right now, the American Red Cross has about 30 volunteers who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. The goal is to recruit 20 more. It may not sound like a large number, but for an agency that's driven by volunteers, just one could make a difference.

To learn more about volunteering for the American Red Cross, click here.

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