THE Government is being urged to make the wearing of CLEAR face masks compulsory for all shoppers and businesses to help deaf people who rely entirely on lipreading.
Diane Lightfoot, CEO, Business Disability Forum, said: “Cloth face coverings are creating a significant communication barrier for lip readers and for the huge number of people who may be unaware that they rely on lip reading to support their hearing.
“Our members have told us that they want to remove this barrier for their employees, customers and clients, but to do so safely, they need swift action from the Government.”
A survey of the Forum’s 300-strong members revealed that 90% of organisations would recommend the use of clear panel face coverings to their employees, customers and clients.
However, health and safety reasons prevent many organisations purchasing face coverings, without official guidance in place.
There are 12 million people who are deaf or living with a hearing loss in the UK and almost all of them rely on visual clues, such as lip reading and facial expressions, to communicate.
Susan Daniels chief executive of the National Deaf Children’s Society, said: “It’s fantastic news that businesses overwhelmingly support the use of clear face coverings among their staff, customers and clients. Alongside a better understanding of how to communicate clearly with deaf people, these masks would be a real game-changer.
“As opaque masks and coverings become widespread, deaf people like me are already facing a daily battle to understand what others are saying. Whether we are in cafes and restaurants, out shopping, taking public transport or socialising with friends, conversations are much more difficult because we can’t see someone’s face to lipread.
“The National Deaf Children’s Society is campaigning for a Government-led plan to introduce clear face masks across the country. The Government has the reach and the resources to make this happen and with the support of business, it has a genuine opportunity to make a real difference to deaf people’s lives.”
Business Disability Forum is calling on the Government to:
- Update its face mask guidance for businesses and the general public to reflect the benefits for lip readers of the use of clear panel face coverings.
- To approve the use of clear panel face coverings or both PPE and non-PPE use.
Business Disability Forum represents a huge cross section of business and works with over 300 employers and service providers.