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Medical Facilities Urged Not To Forget Deaf And Hard Of Hearing Patients

Wearing face masks in public is being advised by the CDC to help slow the spread of the Coronavirus. Businesses are required to use them and starting next Monday, Governor Andy Beshear is asking you to wear them if you are in areas that are more crowded. While many of us can still communicate while wearing a mask, what if you relied on facial expressions to get your information?

Virginia Moore is an American Sign Language interpreter and the executive director of the Kentucky Commission of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, which serves 700,000 Kentuckians. We’ve come to know Moore as the signer who brings important information to the deaf and hard of hearing during the Governor’s daily press briefings. “If you could just imagine, deaf or hard of hearing, they depend on lip reading as well and facial expression and grammar but the lip reading, so you’re covering a little over half your face and there’s no way to lip read behind those masks.” Moore continued “What I’m trying to do is push awareness that there are masks out there. Now they’re probably a little more expensive than the regular mask but the think of it is that you don’t have to buy a huge quantity. I would ask all the hospitals, doctors, healthcare facilities be it even a clinic have some on hand. That way if a hard of hearing person comes in they can use that clear mask and they can lip read. It’s going to create so much more trust and ease on both sides. The person trying to provide the service and the individual trying to take the service.”  

And experts say miscommunication is the leading cause of medical errors. That’s why Moore is so adamant about getting newly designed masks into the hands of medical staff, patients who are deaf or hard of hearing and their family members.

Moore said “There are several kinds. There’s where there’s a full plastic clear mask shield or there’s just the lips that are open. The Kentucky Commission on the Deaf and Hard of Hearing is going to be working to try to secure some. Especially for interpreters who are going working in the fields going into the hospitals, they need to have them.”

Across the state, those who use American Sign Language or lip reading for communication say having an interpreter alongside the Governor has been invaluable and Moore’s presence has created an interest for others to learn the language. “I’ve got several deaf and hard of hearing individuals that have reached out to us that have just said I can’t believe it. I know what my neighbor knows and that just means so much. I just spoke with someone today who is the only hearing person in her family and she said she would feel so lost and so afraid that she’s not getting the full information. It’s not that her family wouldn’t share but it’s that second hand information. Some of it’s not always there. It’s not everything that you hear at the same time and so I’m just glad that this awareness is happening.”

There are numerous clear masks that have been designed in the past few weeks. Below are links to some of the sites as well as the resource page with Kentucky’s Commission of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.




KY Commission of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing