Face Masks and Communication
Wearing face masks impacts language access for people who are Deaf or hard of hearing; many rely on lip-reading to understand spoken languages in their everyday lives (including within hospitals and medical centres).
For Deaf people who use Auslan, lip patterns and facial expressions are important elements of language production. Wearing face masks creates a significant barrier to communication for Deaf and hard of hearing people, one that is highlighted during COVID-19: face masks obscure facial expressions and prevents lip reading.
The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services has confirmed that face masks can be lowered to support communications with people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, while maintaining a 1.5m distance. This is an important factor in ensuring that people who are Deaf or hard of hearing do not face communications barriers.
Wearing face masks is important to protect ourselves against the spread of COVID-19. See-through face masks would be preferable, however they need to effectively protect against viral transmission.
We plan to contact manufacturers of personal protective equipment (PPE) and advocate for the production of appropriately-rated masks that can be used in health and high risks settings, so that Deaf and hard of hearing people have the best possible chance of communicating at all times.
If you are Deaf or hard of hearing, we have made a card and some images that you can download and save on your mobile device. This card and images can be shown to people you want to communicate with to help them understand how to best communicate with you.
I am Deaf communication toolkit
Click on images below to download and save images to help communicate.
I am hard of hearing communication toolkit
Communicating with Deaf and hard of hearing people during COVID card.