For some, connecting to health-care services comes with the need for additional supports. The many people in the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community in Saskatchewan rely on virtual relay services from either Canada Video Relay Service (VRS) or the Saskatchewan Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services (SDHHS).
VRS is a telecommunication service that allows Deaf and hard-of-hearing patients to make telephone calls using internet and cell-based technologies. VRS callers are connected to non-signing individuals through a sign language interpreter that provides real-time interpretation for telephone calls.
Saskatchewan Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services provides in-person and virtual communication support to Deaf and hard-of-hearing patients during doctor’s visits, as well as medical and non-medical appointments.
Many Deaf Canadians frequently use both in-person and online services as communication tools.
Shelly Carver’s story
Shelly Carver, a profoundly Deaf person with the gift of speech, was grateful to have access to interpreter services the night of June 2, 2020. At about 4 a.m., she experienced shortness of breath severe enough to require help. She used VRS to connect with a HealthLine provider, who then assisted in calling dispatch to send for an ambulance. The interpreter on VRS stayed with Carver the whole time.
Once the paramedics arrived, they began to assess the situation with the assistance of VRS on her device. The video interpreter made all the difference. Carver was able to communicate with the paramedics easily and found out that a medication discontinuation was the cause of her symptoms, which turned out to be an anxiety attack. The interpreter helped both parties communicate effectively and seamlessly. Carver and the paramedics determined that a hospital visit was unnecessary as long as she continued to use her prescribed medication.
This interaction would have been much more difficult and stressful for Shelley and the paramedics who attended the call without the use of VRS.
This is a reminder to those in the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community whose use of interpreters is necessary, as well as to our healthcare professionals, that using interpreters can result in better health outcomes. Health care providers should not hesitate to reach out to an interpreter service, virtual or otherwise, to ensure that Deaf and hard-of-hearing patients receive the quality care they deserve.