The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in health and protection decisions which have had significant impacts on people’s lives, especially deaf and hard hearing people.
Facial coverings and social distancing are two commonly used protection strategies which may pose barriers for deaf and hard of hearing people. Deaf and hard of hearing people rely heavily on facial expressions, speechreading and other visual input to support our understanding of our conversation partners.
We request government officials, private businesses, non-governmental organizations, cultural, educational, public and social service institutions consider the following recommendations in their responses to on COVID-19:
- Mandate the use of clear, transparent face masks and shields for all workers who communicate frequently with the public.
- Provide essential information in text format in at public spaces including options to access information in national sign languages.
- Use speech-to-text apps to facilitate communication for one-onto-one conversations.
- Adopt a positive attitude towards communicating. Everyone can benefit from wearing clear face masks and providing visual information, because doing so reduces the overall potential for misunderstandings for all. Clear communication and clear language use require creativity and good will from everyone. Let us navigate these challenging times together!