Handle with Care. How to Improve Access to Healthcare for Deaf People in a Pandemic

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Heinrici, Agnes
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Global Campus of Human Rights
The Deaf community faces many barriers in the access to healthcare and is underrepresented both in politics and research. Although legislation in European countries such as Austria, Switzerland and Germany provide the basis for the fulfilment of human rights including equal access to healthcare, there is a big implementation gap. In the Covid-19 pandemic, additional new challenges like the use of face masks, daily changing information and a higher mental health burden affected the Deaf. This thesis aims to investigate how Covid-19 policies concerning access to healthcare were experienced within the Deaf communities of Austria, Switzerland and Germany, and to identify potential areas of improvement. Based on the review of theoretical materials and existing research, an online survey was distributed to 120 participants within the Deaf community in Austria, Switzerland and Germany. Overall, 85.3% study participants stated that Deaf persons generally have more difficulties in the access to healthcare than people with average hearing. In addition, 75.7% reported that the access to healthcare became even more difficult during the Covid-19 pandemic. Face masks, lack of awareness and insufficient information availability were identified as major challenges. The survey participants named concrete improvement measures like transparent face masks, more sign language interpreters, telehealth, education for medical staff and increasing the amount of official information in sign language. These findings raised a series of issues concerning equal access to healthcare during the pandemic due to the limited availability of resources and information as well as limited representation of Deaf people in policy making. The current findings could help to guide future adaptations regarding the Covid-19 policies of Austria, Switzerland and Germany as well as of other countries and to enhance human rights compliance.
Second semester University: University of Cyprus.
people with disabilities, right to health, medical care, deaf persons, COVID-19 pandemic, Austria, Switzerland, Germany