News 23 July, 2020

We are proud to share an article by Vern Jun Lee – who shares his perspective from a lived experience to raise awareness of the challenges faced by the deaf and hard of hearing community during this difficult time and share some simple communication tips.

Face masks are now mostly mandatory around the world (including here in Melbourne) as they aim to bring the COVID-19 crisis under control, by reducing its COVID-19 spread and transmission among people in our community.

I am completely on board with this requirement, but unfortunately this means that Deaf and Hard of Hearing people, like myself would be facing another barrier to our communication with other people.

It does not matter if Deaf and Hard of Hearing people (including myself) have cochlear implants or hearing aids on as some of us grew up relying on lip reading to communicate with other people. Our main access to communication is often reliant on our ability to lip-read others. This recent requirement has now left us feeling anxious, powerless, clueless, isolated, frustrated, confused and struggling to get on with day-to-day activities (such as appointments and essential shopping).

I am writing this article to spread awareness of the challenges we face and to amplify an inclusivity culture within our society, for the mental well-being of Deaf and Hard of Hearing people. I’ve included some thoughts on how you could support Deaf and Hard of Hearing people during this tough period. We are truly grateful for your support.

Face Masks: How to communicate with Deaf and Hard of Hearing people

We would greatly appreciate it if the other participant is able to listen, empathise and adapt to our communication needs. It is helpful if the participant speaking is patient, respectful and supportive during the conversation to prevent further anxiety.
There are various communication tools to support them:

  • Write your messages down on paper.
  • Body language including hand movements, gestures and expressions (ie. pointing or describing the shapes of objects).
  • Using a technology device (ie. Mobile phones or any devices that have messaging options) to type your messages down.
  • Live Caption apps which often will translate voice to text
    • Otter
    • Ava
    • Google Translate App.
    • Live Transcribe (available on Android only)
  • Turn the Dictation on your mobile phones (iPhone only – How to turn Dictation on Link)

Please note that those apps are not always perfect with transcripts as there will be some errors that are likely to occur.

Tips to communicate with mask on:

  • Speak a little bit louder, but do not shout
  • Speak at reasonable normal speed
  • Ensure that you are speaking words clearly to avoid mumbles.
  • Find quieter place, if possible.

I am very aware that there will be Deaf people and Hard of Hearing People who uses Auslan or other sign language used in their country may still request that you to write or type notes down. Where necessary, some of them may even book their own interpreting services to support themselves for meetings.

“In a world where you can be anything, be Kind.”

I wish you all to be safe and healthy during this tough time that the world is facing.

Published by
Vern Jun Lee