Require all first-responders to learn American Sign Language

Require all first-responders to learn American Sign Language

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Hailey Odom started this petition to South Carolina State Senate and

Every day the Deaf/deaf community have encounters with emergency personnel or "first responders". The problems stem from the fact that many these responders do not have the skills or knowledge to communicate with a Deaf person or persons. The lack of knowledge of the basics of American Sign Language, the language primarily used by Deaf people, causes many problems. Assault, injury, and even the death of a person in the Deaf community are problems and dangers that are preventable with knowledge of just the barest basics of American Sign Language.

The knowledge of American Sign Language, even just the basics, is important for first responders because it can save someone's life and prevent unnecessary injury and death to those effected with hearing disabilities. There are multiple incidents where an individual with a hearing disability has been seriously injured or even killed due to being unable to accurately communicate or follow verbal commands.  One death of an innocent deaf person by emergency personnel is one too many when such a death could have been prevented by that personnel being able to simply use hand signs and recognize the telltale signs of a hearing impaired person.


One solution to this is making it a requirement for all first responders such as, EMTs, Police, and Firemen, to have a knowledge of basic sign language and safety signs. Basic knowledge of American Sign Language signs such as Stop, identification of their organization (Police, EMT, Fire), ask and giving their name, the alphabet (for finger spelling), and safety signs such as Help, Need, Hospital, etc.  


Although the Americans with Disability Act makes it a requirement for emergency personnel to make every attempt possible to communicate with a hearing impaired person, in the heat of the moment, it is often difficult for them to wait for an interpreter or they might not even recognize the fact the person they are encountering is deaf.  If emergency personnel are able to identify the sign for "Deaf", they can then begin to communicate effectively enough to in the least get the individual to Stop, give their name or ID (which would also indicate the hearing impairment/disability) and prevent an escalation of the encounter to dangerous levels.


There are multiple opportunities and ways to aid in providing this training for our first responders.  Sign language teachers from schools, churches, and colleges as well as their students (with certified instructor supervision) could volunteer to teach the basics of sign language.  Or, an interpreter or professor from a college such as Clemson University, can offer a class and emergency personnel could be required to attend at some point to gain an additional basic certification, just as they do with weapons training and sensitivity training.  


One case of "accidental death" due to being unable to communicate is one too many when it is 100% preventable.

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