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Masks have been a barrier to communication for some area residents

Published: Mar. 8, 2021 at 6:43 PM CST
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(KWTX) - The protective masks Texans have been ordered to wear since early July are intended to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but for the hearing impaired, they can be a barrier to communication.

“When I’m doing grocery shopping and I’m trying to ask somebody where something is, I generally have no clue what they are saying since they are covered with their lips with their mask,” said Jaqueline Miller, who’s legally deaf and has hearing aids, but also relies heavily on reading lips and facial expressions.

“Not being able to see their lips, it goes with their emotions because we can’t always understand what you are saying and when we can see your facial expressions, we’re able to understand if you are happy when you are saying it or upset,” Miller said.

“With a deaf or hard of hearing person they need to see your whole face because you are giving facial expressions, even if they don’t read lips, you are still giving grammar,” Randi Johnson, UNT Student Services Coordinator and Interpreter, said.

“In American Sign Language, grammar is in your face.”

Clear masks and face shields help, but are not always used or available.

Miller even has a mask bearing a message to others.

“On one side it says I am deaf and then on the other side it’ll say if I can’t see your lips then basically, I don’t know what you are saying,” Miller said.

The statewide mask mandate ends at one minute after midnight Wednesday.

Miller says she is looking forward to removing masks simply for improved communication.

“I’m looking forward to it because I’ll be able to understand what people are saying, but at the same time the reasoning for masks,” Miller said.

Business owners and operators of other facilities may still require the masks, however.

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