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Pandemic poses new challenges for deaf community

October 28, 2020

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Facial expressions are essential for communicating in American Sign Language (ASL). However, the COVID-19 pandemic and the use of face masks have presented several unique challenges for the deaf community.

Brian Leffler, a lecturer in the department of communication sciences and special education, highlighted the sophistication of this distinct language, as well as the challenges of teaching ASL via a two-dimensional screen online.

“Pre-COVID, in the classroom, you have that turn-taking ... I expect students to respond and not have a blank expression on their faces,” Leffler told the Rome News-Tribune. “Now with COVID, for those who are not coming to campus, we’re experiencing some challenges trying to do this in a two-dimensional space.”

Leffler adds that certain technologies like Zoom are difficult to use when teaching ASL.

“It’s kind of hard to gauge purposes,” he said. “You’re on a two-dimensional screen, trying to study a three-dimensional language, and you don’t have that space.”

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