Communication challenges increase for the deaf community during pandemic

Posted at 10:59 PM, Jul 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-24 11:35:24-04

FORT MYERS, Fla. — In an effort to combat the spread of COVID- 19, the CDC has encouraged everyone to wear a mask - a recommendation that impacts the deaf and hard of hearing community.

Lisa Myhand, a deaf mentor at the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Center in Fort Myers, says interacting with others while in public has become a challenge.

“The reason that it's difficult with deaf people is that those that depend on lip-reading to communicate, aren’t able to see someone's facial expressions when they are wearing a mask like this,” said Lisa Myhand.

Myhand says day-to-day tasks like grocery shopping are now challenging.

“ I love to go to Publix and a lot of people know me very well, and now when you go up you can't really see that facial expression. Sometimes people have been forced to pull their masks down in order to let me see their smile or to make some comment interactions."

She says many like her have been relying on other forms of communication.

“We might have to depend on reading, writing, but that can be difficult,” said Myhand.

“Some deaf people aren’t very skilled at reading English, because it’s not their first language. Their first language is American Sign Language,” she tells FOX 4.

Myhand says there is an easy way that everyone can help support her community: keep a pen and paper nearby.

She also suggests considering a different type of mask.

“So we’re asking anyone if they could possibly get something that would have a clear vision of people's mouths. So that those that do depend on lip-reading to communication will be able to see it through the mask."