RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY/WFXR) — Deaf and hard of hearing Virginians who use American Sign Language (ASL) now have a new resource for finding COVID-19 information.
According to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), Virginia is the first state to offer real-time ASL support, which means ASL users can directly connect with ASL-fluent representatives by calling 1-877-VAX-IN-VA (1-877-829-4682) via videophone or by clicking the “ASL Now” button at vaccinate.virginia.gov. The center can be reached seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
“This is important, because ASL is not English ‘on the hands;’ it has its own grammar, syntax, vocabulary, and cultural context different from, and uninfluenced by, English conventions,” VDH said in a statement on Tuesday, April 6.
VDH says the service also uses deaf employees, creating jobs for the historically under-employed community.
“Deaf people using video interpreters may not always have effective communication when making phone calls through the Video Relay Service,” said Virginia Department for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing director Eric Raff. “I am pleased that VDDHH was able to work with VDH to ensure Deaf people can directly call Vaccinate Virginia and get crucial and accurate information to protect their health during this pandemic.”