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Deaf, hard of hearing community works to overcome obstacles brought on by pandemic

Posted at 3:50 PM, Jul 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-02 10:34:54-04

TUCSON, Ariz. - For those who are deaf or hard of hearing, communicating with those who don't face the same challenges has gotten a bit more difficult because of COVID-19.

“We rely on communication and facial expressions so when you add the mask and you can’t see the lip reading or the facial expression, its just really enhances the communication barrier," said Sherri Collins, the Executive Director for the Arizona Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

Collins told KGUN9 that because masks have created a barrier in communication for members of the deaf and hard of hearing community, the commission is encouraging clear masks as a solution.

“The reason why you want the clear masks is so you can reduce the communication barrier. It’s not just for us to use, but it’s also for the businesses, doctors offices," said Collins.

Stan Kruggel, who got a cochlear implant years ago after his hearing started deteriorating, works with the Adult Loss of Hearing Association. Kruggel told KGUN9 before COVID-19 he would rely on a pin on his shirt to help those around him realize he's hard of hearing.

We have these little buttons that say 'please face me I lip read', well those don’t do much good on which a mask on," said Kruggel.

Kruggel said that although communicating with a mask on has been an obstacle he plans on continuing to wear one, and even stitched on the words 'hard of hearing' onto his mask to help in the communication process.

“When I go out I wear this. I printed this on here and this has helped a whole lot," he said.

Kruggel added he understands not everyone has access to a clear mask, so he has some advice when trying to communicate with someone who is deaf or hard of hearing.

"All they can do is maybe speak a little louder, a little bit more clear, and maybe not too fast," said Kruggel.

Collins told KGUN9 the Arizona Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing is expecting 20,000 clear face masks sometime this week. She said the commission hopes to get these masks out to interpreters and those in need.