Are Clear Masks the Answer? The Deaf Community Isn’t So sure

Are Clear Masks the Answer? The Deaf Community Isn’t So sure

Regular face masks are a barrier to lip reading.

For the deaf community, the precautions mandated by the coronavirus pandemic have created special challenges, Yahoo News reports.

There’s still a need for sign language interpreters to communicate developments in the crisis. And for those who communicate through lip-reading, the use of masks obstructs their ability to do so.

In recent weeks there’s been a movement to switch to masks that are either partially or fully transparent, in hopes to alleviate one aspect of this struggle.

But for many in the deaf community, they may not be the perfect solution. Deaf writer Sarah Katz says that their arrival — three months into a global pandemic — shows the inequalities that her community faces regularly. She points out that opaque masks have been a barrier in health care settings long before the current crisis.

Many also complain that the masks fog up. And Paulo Martell, a program coordinator at the National Children’s Center (NCC) — a D.C.-based nonprofit that supports people with disabilities — is not overly optimistic about the clear masks, either.

Martell, who is deaf himself, told Yahoo Life: “Even an expert lip reader still can only catch half or less of what [the] person is saying. We often fill in the blanks with guesses.”

Martell, along with many deaf advocates, recommends that more people learn sign language.

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