Since face masks is currently part of the everyday norm and it’s common to see it in our daily routines now, this has raised the issue of how it can make it difficult for deaf people to lip read and to communicate.
Even there are so many different types of face masks out there, I have yet to see those wearing the see-through clear face masks where you can see the other person’s lips. This makes it easier to lip read, see their emotions and facial expressions, and generally make it easier to communicate.
And this applies, not just to deaf people, but to everyone too.
You can watch the video below…:
…listen to the podcast…:
…or read the transcript.
As you may have noticed in the title, I am going to talk about face mask, but before I get into that, I just want to get a few things out of the way.
I don’t want to make it political. The fact that it’s political is just mind-boggling.
But anyway, you get what I’m saying. I don’t want to make it political. I don’t want to get into the conversation about whether it’s important or not and whether we should do it.
No, none of that.
Just wear it. Just help people. Just protect others: the usual story. So I just want to get this out of the way right now, so don’t try to twist my words and don’t try to add politics into it.
And I just want to focus on that. So let us please not make it political.
I want to talk about face mask and make it more important in terms of how to make it work, especially from my perspective, from a deaf perspective.
Right. That’s that out of the way.
Let’s get into it.
Isn’t it weird how face mask is becoming a normal thing now? We normally see it in the dentists or doctors, and the one that you see in a construction site or anything that involves not contaminating something else or you protecting yourself.
And now it’s an everyday thing. And it’s quite weird that it’s normal
to see people wearing face mask.
It’s not something that everyone wants to do. We just do it to help. And it’s not the most comfortable experience.
But you know what? We can help each other. Let’s do it for each other. If it’s not for you, do it for someone else.
But obviously face mask is a difficult situation for someone like myself when I depend on lip reading and you trying to get an understanding of what the other person is saying, not just by lip reading and trying to hear whatever, but also with the non-verbal communication that people depend on, like, for example, the facial expressions, the body language and your emotion.
And you can see that on people’s faces. You can see on your eyes and how (move) your head or how you position your body.
Even how you are saying things, your expression, your smile, your sadness or your glaring teeth when you’re angry or whatever it is. it does make it difficult when you’re wearing a face mask.
So I want to share my perspective on that and what we could do about it.
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There are so many different types of face mask.
The most common one that we’ve seen are the medical ones that we are familiar with. The ones that are cheap and convenient. They are disposable and they are everywhere and anyone can get it.
But obviously they’re not the most environmentally friendly. They’re not reusable. And for those who really care about it, they’re not the prettiest, are they? So they’re quite, you know, ugly.
But then you can make your own. People are doing that nowadays; being crafty with the fabric and just making different patterns available.
Some are making it for themselves. Some are selling it to others. So you can get lots of quirky design and they are reusable. So you can put it in the washing machine and use it again and again.
Even now, there are companies making like next generation face mask. And I’ve seen one where they’re making it battery-powered.
Basically, it’s like having an air purifier on your face and it’s battery powered.
Imagine that! It’s like the next version of Darth Vader or something.
But the wonder of humanity is that we like to be creative and we like to move things to the next level and we
like to be innovative. So if people want an air purifier on their
face, I ain’t judging them.
The one that I’m a big fan of the are the clear face mask. That’s the one, it just makes it a lot easier to see the lips.
The reason I’m a fan of the facemask is because of that intentions of seeing their lips, seeing their facial expressions, and just the whole concept of lip reading, it makes it very easy. And it’s easier for people like myself to communicate with others.
There’s something quite intimidating anyway, when you have a face mask on and you can’t really see the other person, but when you’re trying to communicate with that person, it’s really, really hard to do that.
And that is why I just want to encourage people to wear the clear mask.
Unfortunately, it’s not something that is very common a lot on the high street, in terms of seeing people wear it. And I wear it all the time now
and I do it to help others.
If people want to have the option or people want to see that benefit of a clear mask, then fine. I do it for them.
But of course, I don’t get anything back because the other person is
wearing the full-face face mask.
That’s an issue.
I want to wear mine so as to raise awareness, to say “FYI this is an option, try to find it because it’s actually really beneficial”.
And it’s not just beneficial for people who are deaf. They are also beneficial for people to just to make it easier for them to communicate, to connect.
And I’m really surprised about the reaction when I wear it. The other person saying, “that is a really good idea”. “Awesome! Where can I get one?! I want one.”
And these people are not deaf at all. They wear the full face mask and they
are totally fine with that.
And they communicate with others wearing a full-face mask.
But when they have seen mine, I’m really surprised about how they love
the idea and they want to get their own. That just shows that it can benefit so many people.
So if we can all wear clear face mask, find it online, you can either Google it or you can find it on Etsy. If you can buy it from deaf creators themselves, that would be awesome.
But I can’t tell you how beneficial that would be for deaf people.
And even now, when slowly more people are getting back to work and students are going back to school and university and there are already an increase awareness about how certain students will feel even more isolated than before because of face mask. It is difficult to communicate.
There are videos out there and there’s even one by Deaf Action, a charity by a deaf student called Billy-Jack and he talked about how he, as a deaf student, he’s going to feel socially isolated because people are wearing face mask.
Today, face coverings become mandatory in school corridors and communal areas, having a significant impact on #deaf students like Billy-Jack.— Deaf Action (@DeafAction) August 31, 2020
Deaf children must not fall further behind. We need #ClearMasksForAll now.@NicolaSturgeon, will you respond to Billy-Jack’s message? pic.twitter.com/IwcccjRorK
And when you go back to school and everyone’s wearing face mask, you know, there’s already a barrier there, enough as it is.
But to add another layer of barrier with that face mask, that’s an issue. ANd one simple solution, among many other things, but one simple solution is to wear a clear face mask, and that is it.
And it’s a campaign that is really pushed out there by Deaf Action, the charity and just trying to raise that awareness.
And I want to encourage you to do the same thing, find and wear clear face mask where possible.
You will benefit many, many people. It will help many people. And it will do the thing of why we need to wear a mask.
It will do the thing that we need it to do, which is to protect yourself
and others at the end of day.
Communication is critical and the idea is to make it as simple as possible, to make communication as simple as possible.
And clear face mask can do that.
I hope that will make sense. If you have any question, let me know.
And if you have any thoughts, I would love to hear them in a comment down below. Share your thoughts, what do you think? And do you see it as a problem?
Because people say, “you know, it’s going to be difficult to see. It might make it foggy and then you can’t see it”.
But then I tell them that to make it less foggy, you can either rub it with a bit of sanitiser or rub it with a bit of Fairy liquid on it, or even just rub it with a bar of soap and that will make it fog-free.
And that’s it.
So if you have any issues about that, let me know. I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment down below.
If you have found video useful, don’t forget to Like and Subscribe. And in the meantime, I will speak to you again soon.
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Thank you for tackling this topic. I’m a teacher of Deaf students and we’re having lots of discussion about the different kinds of masks. I have some students who sign, some are oral, some use both. I’m wondering if you notice a difference in the sound quality between the clear masks and cloth masks and how might that impact the decision of which kind of mask to wear? We’re finding that the clear masks muffle the sound more than the cloth masks, so it comes down to a choice between prioritizing visual cues (with a clear mask) vs. sound quality (cloth mask). In your opinion, which is more important for oral communication? I know this is probably a very individualized decision, but was just curious to hear your perspective.
Ahmed Khalifa says
Hi Emily. It’s very interesting that you have said that.
You are correct in that it’s a very individualized decision and everyone is different. Personally, I’ve never heard (no pun intended) the issues of one mask muffling sounds more than the other. But then again, I never encountered anyone wearing clear masks to test your theory. Since I prefer to read visual clues like facial expressions and lip reading, I benefit more from clear mask. The cloth masks (assuming that the sound is better quality) would take that away from me, which means that I have to focus harder what the person is saying. On top of that, it’s easier for me to connect with people when communicating with them if I can see their face. It’s why I value video calls over audio calls; on top of seeing their faces for visual clues and reading body language, it’s easier to connect with the person.
I hope that helps, but it would be interesting to hear what other people think, including your own students. I suspect the best thing to do is to get a general understanding of how they feel and then try adapt the best way you can.