Communication has never been the easier for someone like me – a deaf person. Now in the current COVID 19 climate it has been made much harder due to the use of masks.
Don’t get me wrong the masks are very important in the fight against reducing infection but it’s the design of them which causes issues for folk like me.
Go into your typical supermarket, there’s lots of different noises from the beeping of till scanners, rustling of bags being packed, trolleys squeaking their way around the store, people having conversation, babies crying, clatter of items as people put them into their trolleys, tannoy announcements and so on.
You get to the till and in amongst all this noise you try to catch what the operator says. Not always easy if they don’t look at you, mumble or it’s difficult to make out their speech due to unfamiliar accent or facial hair.
You don’t always hear all the words so you piece together what you think you have heard, and hope it’s right so they don’t then look at you like you’re an idiot if you give them an answer that doesn’t tally with what they have asked.
Now add in a mask, their voice is muffled. The louder they speak the more it is distorted. You pick up from the eyes and frown that they are getting frustrated and that sense of anxiety rises inside you, so you just nod and hand over your card/money hoping that’s what they are asking for.
Or maybe you are stacking the shelves when a customer comes up behind you to ask you something. You don’t hear them. They then manage to get your attention. You struggle to make out what they are saying. They become more frustrated gesturing wildly in the vain hope you might be able to figure out what they are saying. Sometimes they walk off muttering about the assistant that must be deaf as s/he is so stupid because they struggled to help you. Leaving you stood there feeling deflated and frustrated fighting back the tears.
Attend a medical appointment or go to have a COVID 19 swab test, feel totally overwhelmed by the difficulties in hearing and understanding what is being asked of you, or what they are advising.
This is what life is like for the average deaf person. Masks that cover up faces make it so much harder to be a deaf person in a hearing world.
Whilst masks are considered to be essential it is important that folk consider how they can communicate with those who need to see their faces so that they don’t leave them feeling more isolated than ever.
So what can you do?
Buy masks/face covering that are clear to enable others to see your mouth/face for easier communication.
Speak clearly and slowly giving the deaf person time to process what you are saying.
If you are able to write down information then do so.
If there is enough space, remove your mask temporarily to communicate with the person who need you to do this.
Most importantly of all treat the deaf person with respect and understanding just like you would like to be treated yourself should you ever need support.