The pandemic has created new barriers for people who are deaf or hard of hearing and need access to health care. Masks, important for keeping us safe, prevent people from reading lips and studying facial expressions. Visitor restrictions, meanwhile, prevent some patients from bringing interpreters with them to the hospital.
To help overcome these obstacles, Saskatchewan Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services (SDHHS) has equipped emergency departments at all hospitals in Regina and Saskatoon and at the Victoria Hospital in Prince Albert with iPads that have two preloaded apps. One connects the user via FaceTime with an SDHHS emergency sign language interpreter, available 24/7. The other, called Ava, converts speech to text so that conversations can be easily read on a smart phone. This app may have particular value for those with cochlear implants. An
SDHHS instructional video provides more information on using the iPads and apps.
“We are committed to creating a community of inclusion,” said SDHHS executive director Nairn Gilles.
“Through these apps, the health care system becomes accessible with the click of a button.”
Rose Bricker’s mom, Lydia Storey, recently used the iPads during a medical appointment at City Hospital in Saskatoon.
“She was happy to have it,” said Bricker. “The iPad makes the conversation visual. It’s more accessible and easier to understand than when things are communicated by pen and paper. Sometimes on paper, things get a little confused. With the iPad, nothing got lost in translation.”
Gilles said his organization continues to work through some of the glitches but overall is happy to be able to provide a technological solution.
SDHHS still has a number of iPads to distribute to the province’s hospitals and plans to allocate them to areas of highest need, said Gilles.
Patients who prefer to use their own phone or tablet to connect with these services are welcome to do so.
The purchase of the iPads was funded by the Ministry of Health and SDHHS.
Nicole Naughton, an assessor coordinator with the System Wide Assessment and Discharge Department at Regina General Hospital, with an iPad for patients who are deaf and hard of hearing.