As coronavirus cases surge in North Dakota, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says face coverings are a critical tool in stopping the surge in COVID-19 cases. This creates a big problem for people who are deaf and hard of hearing who rely on lipreading.
We spoke to a Bismarck woman who says clear masks are the way to go when communicating to her son who has hearing loss.
“Part of him being able to understand what’s being said is being able to look at somebody’s mouth,” said Stephanie Marrufo, parent of a child with hearing loss.
Marrufo says the widespread use of masks is impacting the ability to communicate effectively with her son, Silas. He was born with a type of hearing loss, but benefits from using hearing aids. She says he is primarily auditory oral, using mostly spoken language as well as some visual language.
“At large our community can not afford to be any more isolated from each other than it already is,” said Marrufo.
It’s not just those with hearing loss who are clamoring for cloth face masks that have a see-through panel. They are a hot item among teachers, for example, Todd Izlar a peer educator, and he’s hard of hearing. He tells us when he goes back to teaching a clear mask is necessary to communicate to students who read lips.
“If I was with a deaf person I would opt to use the clear mask to make it easier for accessibility,” said Iszler.
Iszler says it’s a myth that everyone with hearing loss uses American Sign Language.
“Yes I am deaf but I don’t actively use sign language,” said Iszler.
Marrufo is working on solutions to bring awareness to the need for clear masks to health care workers and government officials.
“These public institutions are named as those places or those facilities that are expected to offer these reasonable accommodations,” said Marrufo.
She even made a bulk purchase order of the clear masks and are selling them to families in need so people like Silas won’t have to choose between safety and communication.
For information on how to get a clear mask, click here.