Face masks creates communication issues for deaf and hard-of-hearing community

BECKLEY, WV (WOAY) – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations to wear masks in public are causing problems for those in the deaf and hard of hearing communities.

“Once my mouth is covered, you’re not seeing anything, you’re unable to read my lips, and if you have a hearing impairment on top of that, it makes things very difficult,” said Mountain State Centers for Independent Living Communication Research Facilitator Kelly Elkins.

Elkins applauds government agencies for using sign language. But standard face masks make lipreading impossible in the hospital, the grocery stores, and other essential businesses.

“In some situations, you’re taking away one of the only things that deaf and hard of hearing people can use, and that’s reading lips,” said Elkins.

Deaf and hard of hearing people rely on facial expressions to communicate, so blocking half of your face remove a crucial source of information. There are DIY solutions to make masks more inclusive.

“I’m seeing a lot of people being innovative in how they’re covering their faces and wearing masks. Communication is important for those in the deaf community,” said Elkins.

Anyone with disabilities that need resources can call Mountain State Centers for Independent Living at 304-255-0122.