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Masks, lack of information create serious challenges for those who are deaf, have hard time hearing

Wearing masks hinders the ability to read lips during a time where communication is key.

ATLANTA — We are all facing uncertain times during this pandemic. Yet, what would it look like if we added communication barriers to that? 

That’s the reality for 48 million Americans right now with disabling hearing conditions. 

Jimmy Peterson, executive director at Georgia Center of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, says he especially worries about the communication access to those in rural areas. 

"They have to rely on their family members or friends maybe to get the right information or not, and they have to trust that they are getting the right information," Peterson said via a video remote interpreter. 

He says that's just one of the many communication barriers for the deaf and hard of hearing during these times. Another one is having to wear a mask, hindering the ability to read lips. 

"If people are saying 'please stay six feet away' and they are behind a mask it's hard for me as a deaf, ASL user," he added. 

RELATED: Agencies press White House to have sign language interpreters during press briefings

Credit: WXIA

Peterson says there are alternative masks with a clear, plastic portion around the lips, but adds that they aren't readily available. 

He'd also like to see essential businesses like grocery stores putting up signs indicating unique protocols taken as safety precautions during this time, such as cleaning procedures. 

"They should have proper signage, you know, so that way you can read the process to know to wait so that the conveyor belt can be cleaned," he said, adding that it's important that everyone be a little more patient during these trying times. 

"Don’t expect everyone can hear. There are some people out there who can’t hear even with our aging population," explained Peterson. 

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