Communication Service for the Deaf (CSD) announced the launch of an American Sign Language(ASL)-based COVID-19 information hotline in the State of Minnesota. This free service gives the 20% of Minnesotans who are deaf or hard of hearing access to the latest coronavirus health information and guidelines in their native language, ASL. The hotline is available online at CSD’s Minnesota COVID Information website or through videophone.
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The Minnesota ASL Now Hotline, powered by CSD’s Connect Direct division, is staffed by a team of deaf agents who are fluent in ASL and trained to provide Minnesotans with the most up-to-date health information and guidelines in their geographic area, such as face mask requirements and vaccine locations near them. By directly connecting deaf callers with trained deaf agents instead of randomized, untrained Video Relay interpreters, the hotline helps curb confusion and misinformation, according to the announcement.
“I often get calls from people who are very concerned about not understanding what is happening because statistics and data are so overwhelming,” said one COVID-19 Hotline representative. “After providing support in ASL, I can see that people are feeling relieved and safe because they have access to accurate information and can protect themselves.”
Connect Direct launched a similar ASL-based hotline in the State of Virginia in April 2021. Over a four-month period, hotline agents handled more than 500 calls from Deaf Virginians seeking accessible coronavirus information.
“Equal access to critical information for our community is vital during this continuing global pandemic,” said Craig J. Radford, CSD’s Vice President of Emerging Markets. “Our free hotline gives deaf Minnesotans a place where they can comfortably ask questions about any issues or concerns related to COVID-19. Callers get to communicate one-on-one and in their native language which, for ASL users especially, can feel like a big relief.”
Anyone may contact the Minnesota ASL Now hotline in one of two ways:
- Visit CSD’s Minnesota COVID-19 Information website and click “ASL Now.”
- Dial 651-504-2088 on any videophone.
Hotline agents are available Monday through Friday from 7 AM to 7 PM CST.
CSD and the Connect Direct Minnesota ASL Now hotline are not medical organizations. Hotline agents are not medical professionals, nor do they provide medical advice.