National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

Informing and educating citizens on severe weather threats, safety, and preparedness is challenging due to various disabilities and language barriers which hinder reach and effective messaging. Even for those seeking information, there may be a lack of accessibility. NWS Birmingham teamed with the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind (AIDB) to produce a video series that highlights various weather threats, and ways to prepare and respond, to further efforts to reach the vulnerable deaf and hard-of-hearing community. Gerald Satterwhite, a forecaster at NWS Birmingham, created a video for each day’s topic during February 2018’s Severe Weather Awareness Week in Alabama. While weather threats were specific, content was delivered in such a way that the videos can be shared by a person or agency anywhere in the country, at any time. Several NWS offices and partners in emergency management, first response, and academia have shared the videos.

Two certified interpreters from AIDB provided sign language interpretation. Additionally, captioning was provided as a toggle overlay. Voice was also used to reach the English-speaking, hearing population. For the deaf, sign language is their first language, and it’s a visual language! Spoken language is not directly translatable and print isn’t always understood. Interpreters must utilize physical intensity, facial expression, and dialects that play a crucial role in characterizing what’s being signed/communicated. This was seen during the lead up to recording, where interpreters had to come up with the best way to sign words without a traditional sign, though those same words are regularly used in spoken English.

This was a rewarding project, with thanks and appreciation received. The videos produced by NWS Birmingham are available on the office’s Facebook and YouTube profiles as a playlist, the NWS Birmingham webpage, and the national Weather-Ready Nation Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing webpage.