Masks are not something we thought about in January. However, they have become a part of our culture. One obstacle that Deaf and hard of hearing consumers face is not being able to see other community members’ or interpreters’ mouths through their masks. Thankfully, manufacturers understand this disadvantage and have begun producing masks with a see-through front, ensuring the mouth can be seen rather than hidden behind an opaque mask. Some have just a “window” of clear material in the front While others, such as the Clear Mask, provide full-face visibility.
Masks in the Deaf Community
American Sign Language is a complex visual-spatial language that relies heavily on body language, facial expressions, and mouth movements. Non-verbal communications are important for providing a clear message. See-through masks set a tone of inclusion instead of isolation. They benefit not only the Deaf and hard of hearing, but anybody who relies heavily on non-verbal communication, such as children and elderly persons.
Why are see-through masks important to the Deaf Community and to society as a whole?
- According to researcher Albert Mehrabian, 55% of communication is visual. Non-verbal communication is used to accurately understand the meaning of what is being “said”. Many community members that rely heavily on non-verbal cues could be left feeling isolated without them. The use of standard face masks immediately presents a communication barrier while see-through masks aid in helping them feel safe and included.
- Miscommunication is significantly reduced by providing important visual cues. The true meaning of a message often lies in how something is being communicated, over what is being communicated.
- Facial expressions are extremely important. Being able to see a person’s emotions can reduce misinformation, misunderstandings, and can also influence our own mood. For example, smiling is contagious and has many known health benefits that include reducing stress and lowering blood pressure.
- As explained in this article (written by Lisa S Scott, a psychology professor) human faces foster language development. This is important for hearing and deaf children alike. Children pay close attention to mouth movements during crucial language development and this early exposure is critical for language acquisition, fluency, and proficiency of language.
Face masks have become important in our society. See-through masks allow us to continue to communicate in a more complete manner that includes the non-verbal aspects of communication, while still protecting ourselves and others from the spread of disease. We encourage all members of society to incorporate see-through masks into their lives to further aid in the mission of equal access to communication, inclusion, and safety of all our community members.