We are very concerned that visitors to our website should be aware of the following situation.
The Corona virus, or as it’s commonly known, COVID-19, has created a new set of challenges for those who are deaf and hard of hearing. This includes YOU AND ME!
Communication has grown even more difficult as greater numbers of people wear face masks, limiting facial expressions and preventing lip reading for those who are Deaf or hard of hearing (DHH) and use American Sign Language(ASL) as their primary form of communication.
Those in the deaf and hard of hearing community said this adds another level of stress as they figure out new ways to engage.
“Many deaf and hard of hearing people have anxiety about having a mask on because some are skilled lip readers, and they depend on watching YOUR lips move to convey what’s being said,” said Clark Corogenes, a deaf services advocate at The Whole Person. A good many DHH do not read lips, yet everyone’s facial expressions are vitally important to communication.
Face masks create a tough barrier.
“If they can’t see it, then they can’t do that. Then they don’t understand. They are missing a lot of points,” Corogenes said.
Those in the Deaf community are advocating for more interpreters and more people willing to learn basic sign language.
“If you are practicing safe social distancing these days of uncertainty, pulling the mask down could be a better way for that communication to happen. There are also clear masks that have been started to be manufactured. “People have been able to purchase these as they are out there,” said Rhonda Scott, coordinator for Deaf Services at Catholic Charities and an interpreter.
Some of these advancements are already happening.
An Eastern Kentucky University senior created a clear mask to allow for better communication.
Requests for her homemade masks have reached more than 20,000 in multiple countries.
“We need to think about these populations that we don’t think about all the time. We must! And we need to start making life in general more accessible for everyone,” Ashley Lawrence said. “It’s beyond just the giving of the masks. It’s the awareness, which is something I never thought would happen when I started this.”
Together the advocates said they hope to shine a light on deaf awareness during this pandemic.
The Missouri Commission for Deaf and Hard of Hearing is doing their part to help, providing free clear masks for people who are either deaf or hard of hearing. Let your legislators in all states know about this as soon as possible. It’s the right thing to do.
We invite you to register for our class in Deaf Sensitivity entitled I Never Gave THAT A Thought!