Communicating with deaf people when using face coverings

 22 July 2020

Various face masks

Face coverings are mandatory for people in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire from 11.59pm Wednesday 22 July, which poses a challenge to deaf and hard of hearing Victorians.

With the ability to lip read and facial expressions taken away, there are other things we can do to communicate with deaf people.

The Department of Health and Human Services does note in its face covering directions that a person who is communicating with someone who is hearing impaired can remove their face covering, where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication. The hearing impaired person should keep their mask on and maintain 1.5m distance. 

Some other ways of communication are:

  • Written communication – write it down in plain English on phones, devices or paper
  • Use gesture and pointing
  • Use text to speech apps, such as Live Transcribe (Android) or Ava: Best Live Captions (Apple)
  • Do not yell, but try to speak a little louder
  • Articulate your words and slow down
  • Use your hands and body language
  • Move to a quieter place if possible.

Deaf Victoria is also advocating for people to use clear panel masks to assist.

Below are some resources on how to make your own clear panel face covering:

Most importantly, please be patient and kind and listen to deaf and hearing impaired people when they tell you how to communicate with them.

If you or someone you know is deaf/hard of hearing, Deaf Victoria has created advocacy graphics to assist you in advocating for your communication needs when masks are worn. You can find those here: Advocacy graphics

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