English article: Sign language news for disaster victims on line

Sign language news for disaster victims on line

A Web site featuring sign language news related to the Great East Japan Earthquake has been launched for hearing-impaired disaster victims to provide them with information necessary to function after the disaster.

Satoshi Ezoe, 24, of Chofu, Tokyo, who has experience providing sign language news on NHK, received a text message from a hearing-impaired friend after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

The friend, who was affected by the disaster, said in the message, "I have no information. I don't know what's happening unless I connect to the Internet."

Ezoe later heard of a case in which a hearing-impaired evacuee did not know how to receive meals at an evacuation center because announcements were broadcast only on the public address system.

Another evacuee was unable to locate the bathroom in their shelter. During power outages, hearing-impaired people's written messages could not be read by others, severely limiting communication.

Ezoe realized the necessity to reduce the gap between hearing and hearing-impaired people. Three days after the disaster, Ezoe started providing disaster-related information about the restoration of electricity and gas, water supplies and the latest news using sign language on his Web site.

The Web site, named "Deaf News Network" (DNN), was made by Ezoe and about 30 others, including a friend living in Australia and some hearing-impaired associates.

Ezoe has uploaded more than 640 video messages onto his Web site and YouTube. So far, the videos have received more than 280,000 hits.

Recently, Ezoe has started providing information on how to fill out an application form to receive a disaster victim certificate and how to apply for temporary housing.

(May. 20, 2011)

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