BEIJING/SHANGHAI, March 16 (Xinhua) — It was one and a half hours before the official opening of a news conference on the prevention and control of the novel coronavirus outbreak in Beijing.

Leng Xinxue, a sign language interpreter, was the first to arrive on site and immediately began rehearsing. A transparent face mask is placed to her side.

Sign language interpreters have been invited to the press conferences in major Chinese cities to serve people with hearing impairments. But masks have been a big obstacle to passing on information.

“It would be nice if the mask was transparent,” said Leng.

Leng tried to tailor a mask herself. She hollowed out the central part of the mask and replaced it with plastic wrap. She then applied some anti-mist spray before disinfecting it.

“I did a lot of research online and this is the third generation of my transparent masks,” she said. “I’m still working on a better one which can allow us to breathe easier.”

Over the past month, Leng’s team completed more than 30 live translations — an exhausting job but no one has ever complained. “We only have one goal, that is to reassure our hearing-impaired friends with accurate and authoritative information.”

In the battle against the epidemic, China is striving to ensure the health of disabled people, with more sign language interpreters working as spokespersons across the country to help the special group get firsthand information.

According to international practice, the live broadcast of sign language interpretation usually appears in the same frame as the keynote speaker. But their images have been enlarged and taken up over a third of the whole screen in the recent press conferences in Shanghai to better serve viewers with special needs.

“We can see it much clearer, it’s a great change,” said a hearing-impaired student surnamed Ni.

“It’s not technically difficult but a way to show respect for all viewers,” said Song Jiongming, deputy director of Shanghai Media Group.

China has more than 85 million people with disabilities. In Shanghai alone, there were 578,000 disabled people by the end of 2019, with 76,000 hearing impaired.

Governments at all levels across the country have rolled out supportive policies to help the disabled during the outbreak.

Beijing offers medication, mental consultation and delivery service for people with disabilities while the Shanghai Disabled Persons’ Federation has used sign language to record video clips to remind people of the importance of disinfection, wearing masks and staying at home. The videos are promoted through WeChat and text messages. “We will not let the hearing impaired fall behind,” said Wang Aifen with the federation.

People with disabilities, too, are doing their part to contribute to the anti-virus fight.

Wang Jiuxiang, a physically disabled villager in suburban Beijing, has been on guard at the entrance of the village for more than a month. The 50-year-old also works part-time at the village committee to broadcast epidemic prevention and control knowledge with loudspeakers.

“For the sake of everyone’s health, please don’t go out and gather and contact us if you develop fever, cough, fatigue or other symptoms,” Wang said in a broadcast.

There are also other people with disabilities who volunteered to transport and deliver supplies, and work at local communities to serve residents during the epidemic.