Communication Service for the Deaf (CSD) announced the launch of an American Sign Language (ASL)-based COVID-19 information hotline in the City of Austin, Texas. This hotline gives the approximately 4 million Texans 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 Austin COVID Information website or through videophone.
The Austin 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 Austinites 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 safer by having more accurate information to protect themselves.”
Connect Direct recently launched a similar ASL-based hotline in Minnesota in March 2022, and another hotline in the State of Virginia in April 2021. Over a four-month period, Virginia’s hotline agents reportedly handled more than 500 calls from deaf Virginians seeking accessible coronavirus information.
“Our free hotline gives deaf Austinites a resource where they can comfortably ask questions about any COVID-19 issues or concerns they may have by communicating one-on-one and in their native language,” said Craig J. Radford, CSD’s Vice President of Emerging Markets. “For ASL users, this allows equal access to critical information during this continuing global pandemic, which can relieve confusion, stress, and worry.”
Anyone may contact the Austin ASL Now hotline in one of two ways:
- Visit CSD’s Austin, Texas COVID Information website and click “ASL Now.”
- Dial 737-304-6560 on any videophone.
Hotline agents are available Monday through Friday from 7 AM to 7 PM, CST.
CSD’s Austin hotline agents will also be hosting a booth at the first ever Austin Deaf Authors Book Festival, scheduled May 6-7, 2022. The festival will be held at the Texas School for the Deaf located at 1102 South Congress Ave, Austin, TX. Anyone is welcome to attend.
CSD and the Connect Direct Austin ASL Now hotline are not medical organizations. Hotline agents are not medical professionals, nor do they provide medical advice.