Being Deaf Doesn’t Prevent You from Saving a Life

All it takes to save someone’s life are hands and a heart willing to help. The hands can act as the heart and force blood to circulate through the body even though the heart has stopped. Properly trained, hands can bring back life. But hands don’t do It alone. It takes a heart that is willing to step up and help someone experiencing a heart attack to get the hands engaged.

Instructor Bill Fortune (left) instructs Bill Gropp on the proper technique for CPR compressions and the AED

CPR certification is geared to “the average American” every day. But Bill Gropp, a Red Cross volunteer, who is deaf, feels the training should be inclusive of those with disabilities. “Learning CPR shouldn’t be an obstacle because you happen to be deaf,” Gropp said. With that concept in mind, Gropp set out to get a CPR class organized for his friends at the Pueblo Deaf Gathering in Pueblo, CO. He arranged for two ASL signers that were paid for by a grant and he coordinated the signup process.

Saturday, February 9, Bill and Debbie Fortune, both certified CPR volunteer instructors, met with 6 members of the Pueblo Deaf Gathering at the Wesley United Methodist Church in Pueblo, CO to provide the CPR Adult and infant training, which included training for the Automated External Defibrillator (AED), and basic first aid.    

“This was the first time we have given the class through an interpreter,” commented Deb Fortune. “We had to adjust our training style but we felt good about providing this opportunity to the group.” She talked about how the students would be looking at the interpreter rather than the instructor and how that made it hard to see that the student understood what you said. Another challenge was teaching skills associated with the AED. “The AED trainers we use are dependent on the user hearing the instructions but if you are deaf you need to know what to expect and then watch the lights.”

Using adaptive technology

This was also an opportunity to try some new technology by using a new app on an Android phone that directly translates voices. Connecting the phone to the projector allowed students to read every word spoken by the instructors. It also served as sort of a closed-captioning by also interpreting the voices on the video. The app called “Live Translate” is in beta testing but is available from the Google Play Store.

At the end of the day, 6 people had been trained and certified in CPR and First Aid for Adults, Children and Infant. Each student was able to demonstrate the  proper techniques for CPR (Adult, Child and Infant) and basic first aid, especially severe bleeding.

Want to Learn More?

You can learn more about CPR and all of the training available through the Red Cross by going online to

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