Transparent masks for everyone – the opportunity to remove another barrier

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Madrid, Aug 2 (EFE) .- Julia is a deaf woman who has stopped making purchases because she has to ask the cashier to remove the mask to communicate with her, she also has to tell her doctor to read her lips. Transparent face masks promote that communication: should everyone wear them?

In Spain there are one and a half million people with hearing disabilities, according to the INE; some of them use sign language for their communication, but others only have the support of lip reading to maintain social relationships.

Therefore, transparent masks would not only be useful for deaf and hearing impaired people, but for their entire environment, family, health, work, leisure or transport.

Some experts consulted by EFE go further and believe that those masks that leave the face visible contribute to normalize the social relations of the general population.

They have been used in meetings between political authorities; For example, the Gibraltarian Prime Minister, Fabián Picardo, took it during his recent meeting with the Foreign Minister, Arancha González Laya.

THE NEW BARRIERS FOR DEAF PEOPLE

The president of the Federation of Deaf People of the Basque Country, Aitor Bedialauneta, explains that during the coronavirus, new barriers have emerged for these people, which unfortunately add to the ones they already have often in their day to day.

“With the coronavirus they have worsened and we have to make a great effort to reach society, because listeners do not know sign language and we strive with lip reading, but the message is not always understood one hundred percent, It depends on how you gesture or open your mouth, and now it is impossible to maintain that communication without putting your health at risk, “says the head of Euskal Gorrak.

For a few weeks now, this organization has been working with several companies in the Basque Country to achieve the approval of a transparent mask model, which has the endorsement of the Spanish Medicines Agency.

“We are all supposed to prepare for normality and we thought that it was not difficult to get that transparent mask, with breathability requirements, a material that is respectable with the environment” and that it complies with health regulations.

But the mask is not the magic solution to the communication barriers of deaf people, it is necessary to increase the interpreters of signs, expand the subtitling, among others.

“It is clear that the transparent mask is going to be beneficial for everyone; we talk about saving communication, but for other people it will help them to normalize social relations, such as in the educational field or in children’s leisure areas, where It could be used to relax contact with children who are scared of the mask. “

THE INCOMUNICATION OF JULIA, HAIZEA …

Haizea is a 22-year-old deaf girl who lives in Eibar (Guipúzcoa) and her testimony is shared by Julia and more deaf people. She tells us that she was unable to go to her doctor during the pandemic because she had to make an appointment by phone and now, with the use of the mask, she is still unable to read the lips of the people with whom she interacts in. her day-to-day life.

Her life before covid-19 had several barriers, but now too, although she is a young fighter. She has always struggled to communicate with society through lip reading, although many times she doubts, she feels insecure and takes out her mobile to write the message. “Many people don’t vocalize clearly.”

She acknowledges that during the pandemic she felt uninformed, especially at first, although a sign language interpreter was later incorporated into some TV broadcasts.

“Until today I cannot maintain effective or comfortable communication, because I cannot communicate through sign language because they do not know it, nor can I read their lips because they are covered; this is my daily life.”

LEARN TO INTERPRET LOOKS

When we talk to acquaintances on the street or in the workplace, we tend to remove the mask at times and it is not only to breathe, but to see the gesture of the other person.

“In work facing the client, in speech therapy classes and in other areas, it is important to see the gesture of the mouth because it provides a lot of information,” says Daniel Bartolomé, professor of communication at the University of Navarra.

“The mask hinders everything that is the face, cancels their communication through gestures and limits facial expression and that channel of communication in the case of deaf people is blocked,” he adds.

According to the ISSA School Of Management Assistants expert, we are getting used to using the mask and we are learning to better interpret the tone of the voice and to learn “that new language of the eyes.”

“The facial expression of the mouth accompanies and reinforces our message, at an emotional and affective level, so not seeing our faces is a problem; in the East they are more accustomed to reading the eyes, their brightness, because they use more mask due to climatic problems or contamination, and it has already become habitual in their clothing. “

On the other hand, “in Mediterranean culture and in the United States, the smile is taken into account,” he explains, “to interpret whether we are happy or unhappy, it is a way of responding without speaking, but we will have to learn the language of looking.”

By Ana Rodrigo

(c) EFE Agency

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