Deaf people facing abuse over not wearing face masks
PUBLISHED: 11:30 30 July 2020 | UPDATED: 11:55 30 July 2020
Deaf adults and children in Suffolk have been confronted in shops, judged and misunderstood by many as the new face mask laws cut off their ability to communicate with wearers.
Deaf people, and parents of deaf children, are not required to wear a mask in shops but say they have faced hostility from those who aren’t aware.
Parents at the Ipswich Deaf Children’s Society have spoken up about the struggles they have faced over the last week when out shopping with their children.
Richard Platt, the society’s chairman, is deaf, like three of his five children, and has been wearing a badge which explains why he is not wearing a mask.
“People approach and ask why aren’t I wearing one and they are often angry,” he said. “Being deaf is invisible to people until they try and talk to you.
“Masks create a barrier between us and other people because we need to see their whole face to understand what they are saying.”
Teresa Hall is the information officer for the society and has a deaf daughter, Georgia.
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“It’s not just the people who approach you to ask why you aren’t wearing one, it’s all the people who don’t but just stare at you,” she explained.
“The staff also look at you as if to say ‘We’re risking our lives and you’re being disrespectful by not wearing a mask’.
“We also see a lot of Facebook comments of people being abusive, saying things like ‘Only an idiot wouldn’t wear one’.”
Teresa says she can’t wear a mask when shopping with Georgia because she won’t understand what she is saying and has now resorted to shopping late at night on her own when her daughter is in bed because of the abuse.
She added: “It makes me feel absolutely infuriated because of course I want to protect my family, but you wouldn’t take your child to the supermarket and then ignore them the whole time, because that is what it is like having a deaf child when wearing a face mask. They can’t understand what you’re saying.”
Masks with a clear plastic cutout have been tried as a solution but Richard says in practise they are useless for deaf people.
“The clear face masks don’t work, they steam up and covers important bits of your face – we need to see the whole face, not just the teeth, but the lips and expression,” he said.
If you are the parent of a deaf child, you can contact the Ipswich Deaf Children’s Society for support on their website.
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