COVID-19’s Impact on the ASL Community

At a time where our lives are rapidly changing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, access to critical life-saving information has been a major challenge for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Hip Hop Public Health sat down with HHPH MC and New Jersey’s 2018 State Teacher of the Year, Amy Anderson along with her American Sign Language (ASL) class from Ocean City Highschool, NJ to hear about how COVID-19 has impacted them and what they shared with us was very insightful.

When the pandemic first began, Amy told us she had “never felt worse as a teacher.” ASL relies on visual and interactive cues so the transition to a blended learning environment was a difficult adjustment. Moreover, many of her students who relied on lip-reading to communicate could no longer do so because masks became necessary. The lack of sign language interpreters during press conferences and news announcements also made it hard for them to know the right health protocols to follow.

Amy could tell her students were feeling down during quarantine so she decided to bring them together with the help of a fun new project. When she told them they would be doing an ASL mashup of Hip Hop Public Health’s “20 Seconds or More” handwashing video her students were ecstatic. They later shared with her how it energized them and gave them the opportunity to connect and catch up with their friends.

As you can see from their remix, Amy wanted to make the information not only accessible but she also wanted other children to be able to see themselves and feel represented. “It’s not just about being accessible, it is about validating and honoring. It’s about giving attention to ASL and recognizing that there is this culture around this language,” shared Amy.

At Hip Hop Public Health, we know that culturally tailoring health information in this way makes a big difference which is why we are so thankful for educators like Amy for adopting and adapting our resources and empowering her students. We are proud to feature this ASL video as an additional resource on our website and with the support of our extended Hip Hop Public Health community, we will continue to use the transformative power of music, art and science to achieve health equity for everyone.