BGU holds emergency training for the deaf

A thesis on the struggles of deaf people during Operation Cast Lead focuses on assisting deaf people.

Sign Language 370 (photo credit: Avi Gan)
Sign Language 370
(photo credit: Avi Gan)
During her masters degree studies in emergency medicine at Ben-Gurion University in Beersheba, Carolina Tannenbaum-Baruchi often had to run to shelters as rocket alarms rang in the city and had become accustomed to it. One day however, as she was rushing to a safe place, the thought crossed her mind: “What happens to someone who can’t hear it?” This question then became the central subject of her thesis about the struggles of deaf people during Operation Cast Lead.
Tannenbaum-Baruchi, partnering with “Prepared,” BGU’s center for emergency response research, will hold an emergency training session for deaf people at the university on Thursday. The main issues on the agenda are how to behave in the event of an earthquake and what to do when one can’t hear rocket alarms.
“Reading lips is my mother tongue,” said Tannenbaum- Baruchi, who is daughter to two deaf parents.
She made aliya from Chile 18 years ago and is now married and a mother of three. Growing up, she often had to help around with things her parents couldn’t do such as answering or making phone calls.
“Sometimes people would hang up on me when they heard I was a little girl, they thought it was a prank,” she said, smiling.
Her parents, however do not use sign language to communicate: They speak and read lips.
“Not all deaf people are the same, that’s very important for people to realize. Some sign, some don’t, some are very involved in the deaf community, some are not. They also don’t all speak the same language. In Israel, there are Israeli deafs, Russians who speak the Russian sign language, or even Bedouin deafs who have a language of their own. It’s very different.”
Due to these differences, one solution for all deaf people in times of emergency is not effective.
Tannenbaum-Baruchi believes there should be many different options for them. “For earthquakes, it’s easier because you feel it. You don’t need to hear it. The problem is for when rocket alarms are ringing.”
In these cases, the Home Front Command has made a vibrating beeper device available for deaf people, activated when a rocket threat is detected. However, there have been many instances when the beeper has not worked properly.
“They have learned that you can’t trust the beeper, so they just don’t use it anymore,” said Dr. Limor Aharonson-Daniel, the head of the Department of Emergency Medicine at BGU, who accompanied Tannenbaum- Baruchi through her research.
“They are completely exposed to the danger. Well, some of them have all sorts of arrangements with their neighbors for example, who will let them know when an alarm goes off. So if it’s a 45-second warning, you may find someone nice who will do it, but if it’s a matter of 15 seconds, no one will take the time,” Aharonson- Daniel explained.
She also underlined the importance of Thursday’s event. “I think it’s a community whose needs have not been addressed properly, mostly due to our lack of awareness of their needs and the lack of knowledge about what solutions we can provide for them. Their voices haven’t been heard,” she said.
Both Tannenbaum- Baruchi and Aharonson- Daniel agree that the needs of deaf people in times of emergency are important, but they extend this also to general basic needs: “For example, the bubble on the corner of the TV screen during the news, where you see someone translate into sign language? Well a lot of them have said that’s too small for them to see the signs properly. So we think we give them solutions, but in fact, they can’t really use them,” Aharonson-Daniel said.
As of today, no statistics exist as to how many deaf people there are in Israel.
“They feel very misunderstood. Their handicap isn’t visible on the outside, others can’t tell it’s there. Their handicap is internal,” Tannenbaum-Baruchi explained. “I think deafness isn’t just a problem of not being able to hear sounds, it’s a communication problem between the deaf and the hearing.”
She explained there is also a significant cultural gap between deaf people and hearing people: “Deaf people are much more about touch and using their hands than us,” she detailed. She also explained that reading skills are lower amongst deaf people than others. The reason for this, as Tannenbaum-Baruchi explained, is that sign language is not an exact translation of spoken and written language.
The emergency training seminar for the deaf is scheduled to take place on Thursday evening in Beersheba and is organized in partnership with the Home Front Command, which conducted a nationwide earthquake drill on Sunday.