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Bringing ASL to Local Weather Alerts – By Rachel Kaye – 4/2022 – WashingtonPost.com – In June 2000, Tara Burglund, who is deaf, was driving through a thunderstorm in Iowa. She could see dark clouds and feel 74 mph winds but couldn’t hear thunder or weather alerts. She pulled over, but didn’t know what was happening. Moments later, a giant tree fell nearby. Severe weather updates are a main reason people tune in to local news stations. Yet nearly 1 million other people in the US don’t have access. “I rely on my family to interpret bad weather. When they’re not home, I can barely tell what is going on,” said Burglund. “Having access to the same safety as others would help so much.” Weather radios are available with strobe lights or vibrating alert features. But there is still a critical gap on television. Vivian Rennie, a meteorologist at KSBY television station in California, contacted local interpreter Dawn Habhab to discuss using ASL when communicating safety updates and was connected with Burglund. Before the next big snowstorm, Rennie, Burglund and Habhab created a quick video demonstrating weather signs for key words and phrases and shared it with a private group of meteorologists on Facebook. Five minutes after Rennie’s first broadcast using ASL to communicate a possible tornado, she started receiving responses. She had dozens of emails and calls after the first few days. Burglund said she would love to see interpreters helping during severe weather coverage. “Some deaf people have low English grammar or bad eyes that can’t read closed captions very well,” she said. “Hearing people don’t know… how important necessities are to deaf communities. We only want [equally] effective communication accessibility. I hope that hearing people would just listen to the deaf community for our accessibility needs.”

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