The COVID-19 Pandemic has heralded the widespread use of masks that cover one’s mouth and nose. One unintended consequence that a certain segment of our population is suddenly cut off from understanding others – from the teller at the grocery store to their doctor.
The impact of this on communication is significant. People who rely on reading lips are suddenly cut off from your words. People who use sign language are also inhibited – the face and lips are actually used as part of that language. The immediate impact is on the hearing impaired community. It is worth adding that whenever we exclude one group of people, we are all missing out as they are forced to adapt, to struggle to participate in society. Of course we all benefit from seeing someone’s whole face when communicating, but most of us can get by with hearing someone’s muffled voice.
There are some solutions – the transparent full face shield is one obvious one. As well, some people are making nose and mouth face masks with a vinyl window over the mouth. Perhaps we should all consider wearing one of those? Read more about one student’s project, that was picked up by media, reported here. There are many designs being posted online, including videos on how to make your own, such as here (by Emily, a hearing impaired person).