The Deaf community & face masks. Communicating during a global pandemic.

September 6, 2020
Photo by August de Richelieu from Pexels

We can’t deny we’re in a very uncertain and unique time right now. With the big global pandemic and the mandatory face mask order in place for Victoria, many Deaf individuals may be feeling uncertain right now.

We understand that a considerable amount of Deaf individuals may be struggling to be out in public right now. We can’t hear, and for those who rely on lip-reading, we can’t do that through a face mask either. While we all must wear our face masks to help reduce the spread of the virus, masks can feel isolating for the Deaf community. 

While the internet is full of articles and social media posts with tips on how Hearing people can help Deaf people, not everyone will read them. 

All is not lost, however, and with just a little more effort and planning, we can still communicate with (and educate) others while wearing a face mask!

Use your (written) words!

Deafness is an “invisible” disability, so people won’t realise you’re deaf until you tell them. There will also be people who don’t understand what Deaf means and will just want to raise their voice. Especially now, everyone wearing a face mask sounds more muffled than normal, so more people will be saying “what?!?” more often. Most people will assume that speaking up (or shouting) is good enough when it isn’t.

It’s times like this when we need to tell people exactly what our Deafness means and how they can communicate with us in a way that will best suit us. 

The quickest and easiest way to do this is to write a note on your phone, or piece of paper, that says it all! Politely show your note to someone when you need too, and you’ll be surprised how many people will be accommodating. 

What should you write on your note? 

In big, bold letters write that you are Deaf and you can’t hear them or lip-read. Then tell them the best way they can communicate with you. This will help educate anyone confused, and if you tell them how they can communicate with you, it should stop people from shouting at you.

If you’re not sure what to put in your note, don’t worry. We have one that you can download for FREE that you can save to your phone, or print, that you can show people when you need too. Head over to our Facebook page here to save the card.


Could I wear a face mask that says “I am Deaf” on it? 

While we can’t tell you what you should and shouldn’t do, we wouldn’t wear a face mask with words like “Deaf” on it. Our concern is that your safety could be at risk if the wider public is alerted to the fact that you are Deaf, by displaying it. Especially with children. You never know who is around and what someone could be thinking if they see it. It’s better to just tell the person you’re trying to communicate with instead.

What can you do if someone refuses to accommodate my needs?

In Victoria, it is perfectly legal to pull down your mask when speaking to a Deaf person – if absolutely necessary. When talking to someone in a service industry (groceries, post office etc.) politely ask them if they can pull their mask down so you can lip read. If they still refuse, remind them your needs are important and suggest them to think of other alternatives that would help them deliver a better service for you. Review the situation you are in and take the best action that’s appropriate for you.

Stay safe out there!

*Suggestions in this post are a general guide and may not be suitable for you.

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