Clare Vale, managing director of Sign Solutions, Britain’s leading communication services provider for Deaf and Hard of Hearing people, said: “The announcement that face coverings are to be compulsory in shops from 24th July is important for public health and safety and slowing down the spread of the virus, however we must keep in mind that many of those in the d/Deaf community rely on being able to see lip patterns to communicate with others.
“People who are d/Deaf or have hearing loss rely heavily on body language, facial expressions, gestures and lip-reading to communicate with others. When the mouth is hidden behind a face covering, communication between the d/Deaf community and shop assistants or others in public can become extremely difficult.
“The introduction of masks with a clear panel in shops would be of great assistance to all d/Deaf or hard of hearing people, as it means they will be able to pick up on the visual cues they rely on for effective communication. If these masks do not become commonplace in shops and other public settings, we risk isolating and excluding the Deaf community further.
“Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, we were working with councils to make shopping centres and high streets more accessible to Deaf British Sign Language users by enabling retailers to use BSL video interpreters to communicate with Deaf customers. However, now more than ever we need to continue to this work towards making shops more accessible to the Deaf community and we urge shop owners to implement the use of clear masks, as well as using other tools such as interpreters to be more inclusive.”