“It’s Turned Their World Upside Down” – COVID-19 Takes Toll On Deaf & Blind

Social distancing makes communication impossible for those who rely solely on touch. WBIR's Cole Sullivan reports.

(WBIR/NBC News) For people who are deaf and blind, the coronavirus pandemic has cut off the lifeline of touch communication.

“The coronavirus turned their world upside down. It just kind of collapsed,” Monica Shimmin, the deafblind coordinator at the Knoxville Center of the Deaf says. “Their independence was removed. It’s removed their language, it’s removed their culture because their culture is touching, is tactile.”

Many of the half-dozen deafblind people in Knoxville, Tennessee live alone. For them, the pandemic has hit hard.

“It’s almost like they’re in a prison, it’s very lonely,” Shimmin says. “Coronavirus has impacted the deaf-blind community like a plague. It is a big dark wall just right in their face.”

Deafblind people place their hands on others’ hands to communicate. Fears the virus can spread through close contact have caused some people to stay away, further isolating the deafblind.

Often, Shimmin’s team of support service providers are often their only connection to the outside world.

Yet, she said they face barriers to access as “non-essential” personnel. She’d like the governor to change that.

Read more here.