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Covid-19 & Masks - Ways you can help the Deaf community

With the advent of mandatory face masks, brings a whole lot of issues for the Deaf community.  Some Deaf people lipread to understand other people which is impossible if people use masks to cover their faces. Other Deaf people use sign language, but part of the sign language is using facial expressions combined with signs to get a message across. If part of the face is covered, it becomes difficult to understand what is being said even with just signs on their own.  

Did you know The National Foundation for the Deaf believe almost one in five of us have some level of hearing problem? 


What you can do to help communicate with someone with hearing loss


The Deaf community have been discussing the use of face masks on social media and finding solutions to this issue.

We suggest that if you have not already done so, download an app that translates voice into text and use that method to communicate with Deaf people.  Some mobiles already have this functionality built in - it depends on the model of your mobile phone.

There’s paper and pen of course, but not everyone has these handy, so the above suggestion covers this problem.  Another app is called “Big”, and with this one, you simply type in what you want to say and show the message to the other person you are talking to.  The app “Notes” on the mobile is another excellent way of typing in messages.

There also have been masks made of clear plastic showing the mouth part, which will enable a Deaf person to lipread another person easily.  If people were encouraged to use these masks when with Deaf people, it would help tremendously.

The Government has given an update today on face mask wearing for people requiring visual cues to communicate

"If you are someone who relies on New Zealand Sign Language, or visual facial cues such as lip reading, or are needing to communicate with someone who does, you can remove your mask to communicate, but you must maintain a physical distance of 2 metres".

This is a great sign the Government is recognising the difficulty for Deaf people in understanding people wearing masks. You can find more information on the use of face masks in the community on the Ministry of Health website


Written by Lynette Southey-Ray, a Deaf member of our Financial team.

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