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Practice Patience: Deaf, Hard Of Hearing Face Challenges Under New Mask Mandate

NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) - When local leaders update the public on the status of COVID-19, they often have Bob Barker by their side. Barker is a deaf interpreter who spoke to CBS 11 News via a certified sign language interpreter.

"Bringing in an interpreter allows that information to be communicated real-time to those deaf and hard of hearing individuals who are not able to hear what the judge is saying," he said.

But for those who are deaf or hard of hearing, some information can get lost behind the masks. Heather Hughes of the Deaf Action Center told CBS 11 News, also via an interpreter, that she thinks the masks are a necessity for safety but another barrier nonetheless.

"Many people who are deaf or hard of hearing tend to rely on the visual cues that we display on our face," she said.

"We show, similar to how you use your tone, you raise and lower your tone to show inflection. We do that with our face, so when there's a mask on, we can't tell necessarily if the person is happy, if they're sad, if they're being serious," said Barker.

They both said one option is clear masks, but they're pricey and also have some flaws.

"The fog that comes with wearing it is a challenge. They're not the easiest to wash and maintain their durability," Hughes said.

What they hope the hearing public will do is practice patience.

"If you notice someone doesn't respond when you try to get their attention, just keep in mind that they might be deaf or hard of hearing," said Hughes. "Because we as those on the hearing spectrum already have to navigate through communication barriers, it really is an extra challenge for ourselves. It's extra stress and extra work, and I hope people can keep that in mind."

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