St.Margaret's News August 2021 - Page 9

for Deaf and hearing impaired

Add social distancing requirements , and ACT Deafness Resource Centre CEO Glenn Vermeulen says the deaf and hearing-impaired community face another layer of difficulty when coping with the COVID- 19 pandemic .
“ It ’ s an issue that came up when governments were suggesting the use of face masks ,” he says .
“ At the time , advocacy groups such as the Deafness Forum of Australia stood up and said , ‘ Look , you can ’ t expect people who rely on lip reading to communicate with people wearing a mask ’.'”
It was an exception that had to be made , and in the mask mandates that followed in the Australian states and territories , governments have made sure to include communication with the deaf and hearingimpaired as a valid excuse to remove a face mask .
The rules state : “ You can take off your face mask when you need to communicate with someone who is deaf or hard of hearing , and seeing the mouth is essential . It is important to keep 1.5 metres apart , where practicable ”.
Glenn says the trouble was that “ hardly anyone knew about it and many people were therefore reluctant to remove their masks ”.
Other solutions have emerged such as a plastic shield that fits over the head and covers the face , or a conventional face mask but with a clear sheet of plastic over the mouth .
“ You have to take the good with the bad ,” says Glenn .
“ Yes , it means others can still feel secure wearing the mask , and the hearing-impaired person can lip-read , but they still can ’ t hear very well . The plastic distorts the voice .”
There is also the option of designing a custom mask that includes a slogan to alert others that you are hearing-impaired , but some people might consider that a breach of privacy or dislike the label .”
( Originally written by James Coleman writing for RIOTACT )
St Margaret ’ s News 9 August 2021