By Jake Beckman, Associate Digital Line Producer
Chicago (CBS) — Amidst the wall-to-wall media coverage that relays new information about COVID-19, some people with disabilities are concerned about having access to new information about the pandemic.
Bryen Yunashko, a DeafBlind man living in Chicago, took to Facebook to share the challenges that he faces. In his post, he mentions the lack of transcripts made available from press conferences.
When it comes to other daily challenges, Yunashko shared that the delay in information about supplies selling out made it difficult for people who are DeafBlind to get the things they need in time.
CBS 2 chatted with Yunashko to learn more.
Jake Beckman (JB): As a DeafBlind person, what are some of the difficulties you have been dealing with regarding learning new information about the coronavirus?
Bryen Yunashko: Our access to information is largely dependent on social networks. But social networks are not fully accessible, and you have to take everything with a grain of salt because you don’t know the reliability or source of information.
While governments have posted websites, the sites pale in comparison to information being given via press conferences.
Governments are not posting transcripts of their press conferences.
Those events are important to the general public because they provide up to date information, assurances and comfort from our leaders.
Our leaders are leaving us out and the Deaf community as well. Are they implying we are immune to the virus because we cannot hear?
JB: What are some examples of social networks that deaf, blind, or DeafBlind people access for info?
Bryen Yunashko: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.
But, in an effort to mitigate the lack of access on broadcast television, many Deaf have resorted to posting ASL explainer videos and photos. In their effort to solve their situation, they are rushing to post things without descriptive text, leaving many of us who are DeafBlind with even less information access.
Can you imagine someone posting, “here’s what just happened,” and a video with it and you try to read the comments and decipher what it is about?
The challenge is also that news media websites are also not accessible, particularly to those who rely on Braille displays to read information.
JB: From your perspective, what are the ideal solutions for these issues?
Bryen Yunashko: Well, unfortunately it is not unexpected that government officials forget about people with varying needs, such as DeafBlind, deaf, and people with disabilities.
But, in Chicago, there’s no excuse for that. We have a mayor who is hard of hearing and wears a hearing aid. She knows full well the importance of communication access.
And she’s forgetting about us. And she and her colleagues are ignoring our pleas to talk to us.
At the state level, concerns have been raised about access to Governor’s speeches as well. But we keep getting assurances that they are in consultation with people to advise on how to address this. The problem?
They are talking to hearing people instead of reaching out to community leaders to get their advice.
I’d like to add a couple more things.
JB: Thanks so much. Sure, I’d like to hear anything you have to share.
Bryen Yunashko: Things are happening really fast, and it can be extremely difficult for people to get supplies they need when they have challenges getting around.
Because of the dearth of information, we DeafBlind find things out much too late and by the time we can find a way to get to the stores, everything is already gone.
Now, we do have food delivery services, such as Instacart and Grubhub. Yes, but, many DeafBlind are on fixed incomes.
The premiums to pay for these services, as well as tipping, will financially wipe out DeafBlind and others with disabilities just to be able to eat.
I’m okay personally, but when I see my bill is about one third higher than if I went to the stores, I can only wonder about my brothers and sisters in the community who have more financial challenges.
Our government is doing nothing to engage with our community leaders and understand the actual challenges we are facing. It is all too ableist. Like everyone has a car and can conveniently drive to the store and load up their trunk for the next few weeks while we’re stuck paying higher prices for everything right now.
After speaking with Yunushko, CBS 2 reached out to the Mayor’s office for comment. So far nobody has gotten back to us yet with an official response.
(Featured photo description: The photo is of DeafBlind advocate Bryen Yunushko, who is wearing a black fedora, dark blazer, black button down shirt and patterned red tie.)