Coronavirus Hurdle: Face masks block lip reading

U.S. & World

(KGW) A Vancouver, Washington man is sharing how co-workers are helping him through an unexpected work challenge due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Matthew Simmons is a part-time clerk at Trader Joe’s. He’s also deaf and relies on lip-reading and speaking skills to communicate with customers who don’t know American Sign Language.

“They’re fascinated,” Simmons says through an ASL interpreter. “’Wow, a deaf man working at a grocery store? Awesome!’ It really shows we can do anything.” 

But when customers started wearing masks due to the coronavirus, it created an unexpected communication barrier. Simmons could no longer read their lips, leading many confused customers to walk away from him.

“I started to get anxiety because I wasn’t sure how to react,” said Simmons. “I didn’t know what to do.”

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