February 13, 2020

New app helps the deaf participate in the voting process

By Austa Somvichian-Clausen

“Back in 2016 I remember watching the election debates and the captioning was so badly delayed that it wasn’t even matching up with the topics that were shown on-screen,” says Kriston Lee Pumphrey, Community Engagement Manager for Communication Service for the Deaf (CSD). “The myriad of controversial topics just made it a roller coaster ride of frustration. I remember thinking, ‘If only we could have live interpreters on-screen.’”

Lee Pumphrey isn’t alone in her frustrations. Although many laws have been passed guaranteeing the right to vote for those with physical impairments, there remain significant barriers to full participation in the electoral process for the more than 30 million deaf and hearing-impaired American citizens. These hurdles include their ability to access information they need to make informed choices and exercise their full civic rights, which right now is relatively inaccessible.

“At the time I was working for the Deaf Professional Arts Network (DTV News) providing coverage in ASL,” says Lee Pumphrey. “Some of us took matters in our own hands and made the first-ever live-interpreted presidential debates on DPAN.TV. The response from the deaf communities was astoundingly positive, and we knew this was what people wanted to see.”