Watch CBS News

Deaf San Jose Woman, Exempt From Mask Rules, Faces Humiliation From Zealous Strangers

SAN JOSE (KPIX) -- Erin Young is deaf and therefore, exempt from California's face-covering order.

But, she said, she has been repeatedly kicked out of businesses by employees and publicly persecuted by other customers at grocery stores, gas stations and pharmacies.

The San Jose resident said the harassment is so bad she now rarely leaves her home to do errands despite the fact that she shows people her hearing aids and carries the exemption order on her phone.

"Horrible, horrible, I'm trying not to cry now," Young said. "It's very disheartening, it makes you feel inadequate as a human."

One problem Young faces is that her speaking voice is not affected in the way that many people associate with deaf speech. She must frequently convince others that she is, in fact, hearing impaired.

"People tell me all the time, 'You don't sound like someone who's deaf,'" Young said.

She said she has a 99 percent hearing loss in her right ear and a 60 percent loss in her left ear. She reads lips and took classes when she was young to help with her speech. Young said that without her hearing aids it sounds like she is underwater.

"It's really muffled," Young said. "Without my hearing aids I would be squinting my eyes looking at you, especially with the background and the traffic noise. I can hear you but I can't hear your words."

Young has tried several different masks but many of them that must be hooked behind the ear lift her hearing aids rendering them non-functional. She said face shields generate an echo and masks that tie behind her head also lift or compress her hearing aids and create a screeching noise.

Not to mention, she said, she can barely make out what someone is saying when they're behind plexiglass and wearing a mask. She said she has been kicked out of businesses for not social distancing. Young has resorted to sending her boyfriend to do errands and having food and products delivered to her home.

"I keep the exemption on my phone, I show people and they tell me all the time, 'Well, you still can't come in here, the governor says you can't,'" Young said.

She has reached out to county and state officials but has been given no answers or solutions. Young wanted to speak out for herself and others whose disabilities are also not obvious.

"I'm done being harassed for something I can't help," Young said.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.