Devon

Coronavirus: Clear masks made to help lip-reading deaf people

Clear mask Image copyright Claire Cross
Image caption Claire Cross has donated the masks to make the deaf feel "safe and included"

A woman has sewn more than 100 protective masks that enable lip-reading to help deaf people feel "safe and included".

Claire Cross, 45 and from Devon, said the masks - which feature a clear panel over the mouth - were "vital" for those with hearing issues.

The National Deaf Children's Society (NDCS) has called for the masks to be made widely available.

The government said its policies aimed to be "as inclusive as possible".

Image copyright Gail Conway
Image caption Gail Conway is using clear masks as she relies on lip reading to communicate effectively

The use of face masks is mandatory on public transport, in hospitals and in some enclosed areas to help prevent the spread of Covid-19.

But the NDCS has warned standard coverings "could put the deaf at an even higher risk of isolation and loneliness than they already are".

Ms Cross, a furloughed pub worker from Cranbrook, Exeter, who has been shielding because she has rheumatoid arthritis, has also been donating plain masks as she wants coverings to become a "natural" thing.

Image copyright Claire Cross
Image caption Ms Cross said deaf and hard of hearing people should be able to "go back to normal" like others

Ms Cross said people would "want to get back to normal" as lockdown eased.

"Why should they [deaf and hard of hearing people] suffer? Why should they not be able to get back to normal like everybody else?"

Gail Conway, 59, from Lichfield in Staffordshire, said clear masks should be the new normal as opaque ones were a "barrier".

"When I tell people I lip read it means they have to touch their face to pull it down to communicate with me and then put it back on when the conversation is completed," she said.

"For many deaf people, especially if they live alone, the whole issue that this virus has created certainly has brought more isolation if they weren't [already isolated] before."

The government said there were exemptions in place for those who could not adhere to the mandatory use of a mask.

In a statement it said it regularly engaged with disabled people's charities so its policies were "appropriately tailored to be as inclusive as possible".

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