ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Communication in a disaster or an emergency is a two-way street. For the deaf and hard-of-hearing community, it isn’t the most well maintained street according to Dr. Brian Tomaszewski, who is leading new research into how to bridge the gaps in communication from both ends.

“What are the gaps in emergency services that deaf people are facing and a conversely what are the issues that people who work in emergency management are having with deaf community and populations and how can we try to improve services really for both of them,” said Dr. Tomaszewski.

Some of the early gaps according to James Fugate, another researcher on the project, and Assistant Professor at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, is simply technological.

“There is a technology sort of gap maybe some of the older people don’t have the […] smartphones that were so used to everywhere but it’s not everywhere,” said Fugate.

In other cases, there are more barriers than just not being able to hear.

“Communication needs and preferences vary something that the deaf refugees, immigrants from around the world okay don’t know ASL,” said Fugate.

Identifying the gaps is just the first step in solving the issues. Further plans include utilizing mapping technology to better allocate resources across the board, but also specifically for those with deaf and hard of hearing residents.

“Disasters are inherently spatial, they affect people, places in their communities and we want to kind of know where people are located and how we can use GIS and mapping to get the best possible services to people,” said Dr. Tomaszewski.

The second stage of the project is set to begin next spring and will begin implementing the findings and student prototypes.