Hearing disabilities pose challenges with COVID-19 but help is available

For many people, taking on COVID-19 means simply going to a clinic and getting a vaccine. For people with disabilities, […]

Two women standing at a booth for Keystone Interpreting Services

For many people, taking on COVID-19 means simply going to a clinic and getting a vaccine. For people with disabilities, accommodations and specific forms of outreach are needed. Not everyone communicates in the same way, so extra consideration and accommodations must be provided. 

Svetlana Peterson is one of many Minnesotans working to keep people safe from COVID-19. She is a community outreach advocate for Greater Minnesota and works as an an advocate for deaf communities. She is searching for event organizers to collaborate with so that she can provide assistance to deaf communities. 

She works for the Deaf Community Support Center/Keystone Interpreting Solutions, based in St. Paul. She is working on COVID-19 awareness and vaccine issues through the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). 

Peterson was born in Russia. She was adopted and wound up living in Minnesota. She has lived in Minnesota for 23 years. After high school and college, she did public health specialty work for about five years. 

Then she decided to do something different and began her current job. Peterson said she has had an “amazing journey” with her career. 

Her work on COVID-19 issues focused on resources for media, collaboration with different organizations and providing workshops or webinars. She also has been involved with many vaccine events. 

Her biggest goal for 2024 is to start webinar presentations. “It would help deaf communities and hearing people welcome to join and watch us to learn about COVID-19,” she said. 

Peterson is also looking for more ways to be involved with vaccine events and workshops. 

Working in rural areas and continuing to do outreach and get more people vaccinated are the biggest challenges she has faced. But she sees her work as providing important support the Greater Minnesota’s deaf community, to help people find access to resources and COVID information. 

Peterson was asked what she would want to be the biggest takeaway or main point about how COVID-19 has affected Minnesotans with disabilities. She said the biggest point to consider is that people haven’t had equal access to information. There is a need to establish and promote trusted sources of information. 

Peterson would like to use her MDH grant to support deaf communities in the fight against COVID-19. Contact her at [email protected] 

Graphic of a woman wearing a face mask with a clear window

Additional resources 

People with hearing disabilities can find resources online to answer questions about COVID-19, vaccines and more. One good source is the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Division of the Minnesota Department of Human Services. Go to DHS Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Division. The website includes a wide range of information, and has thorough COVID-19 resources as well. 

MDH offers regularly updated resources for people with numerous disabilities. Many links are offered for laypeople, school staff, caregivers health professionals and others.

Go to http://tinyurl.com/4uym3vr4 

Follow the Minnesota Commission of the Deaf, DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing, at https://mn.gov/deaf-commission/ 

Or go to Disability Hub for useful links, at Disability Hub MN 

Another tip for people seeking vaccines is to follow these organizations on Facebook, as vaccine clinics may be posted more quickly on there. 

Masks can be an issue 

With COVID-19 and other illnesses making appearances this winter, many people are masking up again. Masks can make communication very hard for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. However, masks can help decrease the spread of COVID-19. 

According to MDH, people may remove their masks when asked to do so by someone who is deaf or hard of hearing if they can keep a safe social distance of six feet. A clear mask or plastic face shield can be worn so the face can be seen. A number of vendors sell masks with clear windows, where a person’s mouth can be seen and lip[s can be read. Do an Internet search for “face masks with clear windows” and several options can be found. 

Of course, people may also use speech-to-text apps, or write notes on paper or mobile devices. But face masks with clear windows offer accommodations for people who read lips. 

Access Press provides coverage of COVID-19 through a grant from  the Minnesota Department of Health. 

  • "Stay safe, Minnesota. Take steps to protect yourself, & others from the COVID-19 virus."
  • "Stay safe, Minnesota. Take steps to protect yourself & others from the COVID-19 virus."


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