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Arizona creates program to help the deaf, hearing impaired get emergency information

A woman working at a 911 dispatch center. (Flickr/ICMA Photos)

PHOENIX — In a public emergency, most people get up-to-date information online, on television, by radio or even by word of mouth. But the estimated 1.1 million Americans who are deaf or hard of hearing need an alternative way to get information.

The Arizona Commission for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing teamed up with emergency officials around the state to develop the Emergency Response Interpreter Credentialing Program, or E.R.I.C.

The three-day program for sign language interpreters and CART captioners teaches them how to communicate emergency information with hearing-impaired people at public meetings, press conferences and in one-on-one interaction.

Vicki Bond with the commission said the issue surfaced after officials realized that some individuals were not receiving access to critical information.

“A deaf person may come into a shelter and need a sign language interpreter, and there was no one available,” Bond said. “There was no mechanism to get someone out there quickly and efficiently.”

So far, the commission has trained 10 interpreters and three CART providers, Bond said, but the program is expected to expand once it is fully operational sometime this January.

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