There are 12 million people in the UK that are deaf or living with a form of hearing loss. For these people, the introduction of face coverings as a method to prevent the spread of Coronavirus has inadvertently affected their ability to communicate with others.

The wearing of face coverings in the UK is now mandatory in shops, hospitality venues, and on public transport. For the majority, face masks do not impact our ability to go about with our daily lives. However, for people that are deaf or living with a form of hearing loss, opaque face coverings have hindered their ability to use visual cues, such as lip reading and facial expressions, to communicate.

The problems with opaque masks

  1. Opaque face masks cover the mouth and face, which prevents people from lipreading or from using mouth shape and facial expression to assist in accurately hearing or understanding.
  2. Masks muffle the sound of voices, which reduces both the volume and clarity of the voice.
  3. Masks create problems for those who use British Sign Language, which relies heavily on facial expressions used in combination with hand gestures, movements and body language.
  4. Transparent panel face masks offer a great solution to overcoming these accessibility barriers.
  5. Transparent masks make it possible to see the mouth and face to help people with hearing disabilities continue to communicate during the pandemic.

Support for clear panel face coverings

Over two-thirds of firms report they would be willing to make their use compulsory among staff or customers. This means there is overwhelming support among businesses for clear face coverings to be made more widely available. It is refreshing to see businesses prioritise accessibility for both their employees and customers.

The Government has been asked to take urgent action to approve the use of transparent face coverings officially. Without official guidance in place, many organisations are reluctant to source transparent or clear panel face coverings.

Careers with Disabilities supports calls for the Government to update face mask guidance. Including the reflection of benefits, alongside the approval of clear panel face coverings for both PPE and non-PPE use.

Your rights

If you’re deaf or live with hearing loss, then it’s essential to be aware of your rights as an employee. You may be eligible for financial support, including access to grants and schemes. These could help you secure a job and remain in employment.