Hearing impaired struggle to communicate as people wear masks

Updated: Sep. 3, 2020 at 8:39 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Members of the deaf and hearing impaired community are facing new challenges in the pandemic.

Masks help to protect us from the coronavirus but, “they’re all still a barrier on our ability to understand even though some are clear,” said Amanda Parker.

Kaci Cronin is an interpreter for Parker, an outreach coordinator. Both women work for the Mississippi School for the Deaf in Jackson.

Parker said masks complicate the use of American Sign Language.

“A lot of deaf people are going to depend on mouth movements as well as hand movements with sign language. So, when you don’t have access to both, it just can be difficult,” Parker said.

People have started to create clear masks. Parker has several different kinds but she said they each come with their faults.

Some clear masks reflect in the light which makes it hard to read lips. Others do not provide proper protection from the virus, even though they provide proper visibility.

Parker said people who don’t know American Sign Language tend to raise their voices to speak to her, which doesn’t help.

“ASL, American Sign Language, is a beautiful language. It has its own syntax to structures and rules same as Spanish and French would have their own rules of grammar. It’s not just me moving my hands and just arbitrarily doing signs,” said Parker.

During these hard times, the School for the Deaf has been comforting for Parker.

“I feel very safe here because we’re all just sharing the same struggle. So there’s a level of sensitivity that’s present here,” said Parker.

If someone who is hearing impaired is having a hard time understanding you, socially distance yourself and bring down your mask. That way, people like Parker can read your lips and see your facial expressions.

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