Mask mandate creates challenges for deaf community

Local News

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Ohio (WDTN) – The mask mandate in Ohio is creating a communication barrier for the deaf community.

Many in the deaf or hard of hearing community rely on reading lips, and said while the mask mandate is an understandable safety precaution, it is adding to their anxiety because of the challenge to communication.

The state-ordered mandate has an exception for when someone is trying to communicate with a deaf or hard of hearing person. But masks can make it difficult for that person to know you’re trying to communicate with them, so the Deaf Community Resource Center said flexibility is key.

Paula Vaught, the Chief Operating Officer of the Deaf Community Resource Center said first, make sure you have the person’s eye contact when trying to talk to them. She encourages writing a quick note on paper or your phone, or gesturing to communicate.

“For the person who absolutely depends on lip reading, we can take down our mask for a short period of time,” said Vaught. “Just keep that social distancing in there to make sure you’re not endangering yourself or someone else.”

She warns those who are hard of hearing could react to hearing something, but understanding what you’re saying could be difficult.

“Repeat what you said,” said Vaught. “Some words are harder to understand with the muffle, so being able to rephrase something may be important.”

Vaught said there are other options to help with communication, for instance, she said special clear paneled masks have come in handy.

“If a person has difficulty finding them, they can contact us, we’re just trying to keep a few available for people that really need them,” said Vaught. “There are a few seamstresses in the area making them so we can get them in contact if people want to purchase several of them.”

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