When the next ice storm, wildfire or terror attack happens, Canadians who are deaf or hard of hearing will be in greater peril than others because most public notification systems are not accessible to them, experts say.
The Canadian Hearing Society estimates there are 3.15 million Canadians who are hard of hearing and 340,000 Canadians who are deaf, including an estimated 11,000 who are deaf-blind. In policy and in practice, Canada lags behind other countries in ensuring their safety in an emergency. "Canadian deaf, hard-of-hearing, and deaf-blind people do not have access to information in a way that is designed to survive a crisis," said a report produced in March by DLR Consulting for the Canadian Hearing Society (CHS).
As the U.S. braced for Hurricane Florence earlier this month, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) deployed its sign language interpreters to accompany officials as they warned citizens and instructed them to get out of the way of danger. The agency has a variety of systems to communicate with deaf, hard-of-hearing or deaf-blind residents for disaster preparedness, action and recovery, including posting interpreted videos to its YouTube channel. No such co-ordination exists here.
"There are good intentions by the Canadian federal, provincial and territorial governments," the CHS report said, "but no provisions of planning, training and communication supports have been put into place to support its deaf, hard-of-hearing, and deaf-blind citizens in the event of a natural or human-induced disaster."