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LGBT, Deaf Community Advocates Say Census Survey Isn't Specific Enough

Laura Tsutsui
Valley Public Radio
Susan Coulter with the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Service Center in Fresno says language barriers can make Census outreach to the deaf community difficult.

The 2020 Census count in California starts in April and outreach has already begun around the San Joaquin Valley to ensure a complete count. However, some census advocates say the survey isn’t specific enough.

One example is that the Census does not identify those who are deaf, hard of hearing, or speak American Sign Language. 

“We wish it did,” said Susan Coulter. She’s the Educational Services Director at the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Service Center in Fresno. Coulter added that there’s also a language barrier. 

“Deaf people, when they get the Census, it’s in English of course,” said Coulter. “They may not be able to read or understand what it’s for or why they should fill it out, so many of them have thrown it away.”

On Friday, Coulter was one of many census advocates gathering in Fresno for a regional Census meeting. Others in attendance said the decennial survey is also not specific enough in identifying race, or sexual orientation.

“Previously, not only were communities misrepresented, but the identity of the Middle Eastern North African, or MENA communities, was completely erased because they were classified as racially white,” said Sukaina Hussain with the Council on American-Islamic Relations. 


“There is no LGBT-specific question on the Census,” said Brian Poth with The Source LGBT+ Center in Visalia. “The erasure of our identities, our sexual orientation, our needs are sometimes overlooked, and that narrative is very scary for LGBT people.”

The Census is the only comprehensive population count in the U.S. Attendees hope when it takes place again in ten years, the survey will be even more inclusive.

Laura Tsutsui was a reporter and producer for Valley Public Radio. She joined the station in 2017 as a news intern, and later worked as a production assistant and weekend host. Laura covered local issues ranging from politics to housing, and produced the weekly news program Valley Edition. She left the station in November 2020.
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