Deaf community shares communication obstacles of COVID-19

JACKSON, Tenn., — The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted many people in the deaf and hard of hearing community around West Tennessee.

WBBJ-7 spoke with Sara Miller, a local educator and member of the deaf community via email, about things you can do that will bring awareness to deafness during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The impact of COVID-19 has brought many obstacles to people in the deaf and hard of hearing community.

With a mask mandate due to the pandemic, having to communicate with others and not being able to read lips from someone who may not know American Sign Language has been overwhelmingly hard.

Miller says 99.9% of the masks people wear in public are inaccessible to her and others in the deaf community.

This prevents people who are deaf and hard of hearing from being able to see facial expressions for social cues, and unable to utilize their lip reading skills to assist in piecing together what is being said.

“Now, with all the mask mandates happening, the communication barrier that we once thought was challenging, just became 100 times worse. Raising our anxiety and stress to the next level,” Miller said.

While people with this disability rely on facial expressions, using a clear masks to facilitate conversations and interact with the hearing world can make things a lot easier.

“When thinking back over the last several months, I’ve yet to see anyone in public locally wearing clear masks for accessibility. As a result, I choose to stay home, not just because of social distancing, but because of the anxiety that comes about when encountering mass groups of people, where I know there is going to be a communication barrier,” Miller said.

To help prevent this problem here is what you can do.

Not only can you wear a clear mask that shows the mouth to aid those who rely on lip reading, but you can use speech-to-text apps or pen and paper.

And most importantly, be patient and understand the stress and anxiety masks cause for those who are hard of hearing and deaf.

For information on tips to communicate with someone who is hard of hearing or deaf please go to the ‘Seen on 7’ section of our website.

Categories: Local News, News, Seen On 7
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