Debates Are Inaccessible for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Voters

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the fourth day of the Democratic National Convention, Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020, at the Chase Center in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Debates Are Inaccessible for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Voters

“We’re tired of having to work so much more than everyone else in order to not miss information.”

After watching the first presidential debate, Erin Rosenfeld was upset, Teen Vogue reports — but not because of any particular comment or altercation between Joe Biden and President Donald Trump.

Rosenfeld is one of 17.1 million American adults who are hard of hearing, and she was frustrated at the absence of American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters. So she he took to TikTok to complain in a video that now has more than 82,000 views.
In a Zoom interview with Teen Vogue, Rosenfeld commented, “I know the debate was a disaster. I know it was full of interruptions and talking over each other, but deaf people deserve the option to watch it if they want and to understand what’s happening, no matter how atrocious it may be.”

Other young members of the deaf and hard of hearing community told Teen Vogue they agreed that the debate left them out of the political process.

While automatic closed captioning was available, it wasn’t entirely accurate and it didn’t cover everything.

“I am profoundly deaf in both ears,” first-time voter Connor Switenky told Teen Vogue in an email interview. Commenting on CNN’s live stream of the debate, he said, “There were no labels in captions to denote who was talking at that moment, and multiple people talking at the same time made it even worse.”


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