Mask usage poses new challenge for the deaf community

The corona virus is leaving an indelible impact on the 21st century, the after-effect of which will be felt throughout in the next few years. As we are aware, crises often have a dual influence on marginalized. The usage of the mask has ousted the communication of deaf people who rely on lip-reading.

June Prusak is a deaf interpreter who used lip reading for simple things like getting food at the drive-thru. “Now, with the face masks, it’s been a huge communication barrier,” Prusak said. “It blocks off your face, so you only see the eyebrows.” This has posed a massive threat to the livelihood of the auditory challenged mass.

The US accounts for 384,000 people in the state who are audibly challenged in different levels of severity. A primary method of their communication involves lip-reading or verbal mimesis, the mask as it covers 50% of the face, and 100 percent of the lips has rendered to utter silence. “Some people depend on the mouth to communicate for lip reading,” Prusak said. “Now, they’re starting to wear masks as well, and I have no idea how much my food costs!”

The American Sign Language places the grammar in the face. For instance, if an individual were to use the sign language to resemble something large, he or she would have to open their mouth in accordance to portray the size. The reason why you likely won’t see interpreters like Michael Albert wearing a mask while signing at a press conference any time soon. He’s a familiar face to viewers as Illinois Governor JB Pritzker’s hearing interpreter.

Deva Darnell, a non-deaf nurse in an emergency room, says, “I have a hard time communicating with my patients. People who could normally read my lips now can’t understand me.” Darnell can’t take off her mask when she works. Even if she could, her patients with vision impairments can’t read her lips if she stands far away. “I feel guilty like I can’t serve some of my patients as well or as quickly as I need to.”

In light of such events, the Deaf/Hard of Hearing Technology Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center published strategies for deaf people to communicate. They have suggested downloading speech to text apps and use a prepared written script to continue on with their daily lives as many hospitals now prohibit interpreters.

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