A topic that has been featured widely in the media in relation to deaf people has been the use of face masks.

It has been recommended that people working in a face to face environment wear masks.  This is to reduce the risks and transmission of the virus.

But wearing a face mask, means that deaf people are unable to lipread.  Removing all communication.

So in times where people are having to wear face masks to stay safe, what else can you do to help communication with deaf customers and colleagues.

Our top tips

  • Use a notepad/phone to share messages with one another, using your own device to respond. There are a number of Speech to Text apps.  For the iPhone there is Live Transcribe and also TX and for Android phones – Otter.
  • Have posters at the store entrance giving guidance on how to inform staff on communication needs.  Also communicate the other options available and include the regular tannoy announcements that you make.
  • Consider utilising schemes like the sunflower lanyard.  This acts as a visual indicator that the customer may need extra assistance.
  • Provide badges for customers like “Lipreader. Please be patient.”  This is an immediate visual indicator that the customer has a hearing loss.
  • Use visual gestures, such as pointing at the amount to be paid.  This helps guide the customer through the interaction.
  • Make sure your loop system is working. This may not suit all deaf customers, but by having this working you will support those customers who use this facility.
  • In customer facing areas, you could choose to use transparent face shields.  This will make it much easier for all customers to see the whole face and facial expressions.  All forming a really important part of our face to face interactions.

Your online experience

More than ever, customers are actually planning out their shopping trips before they go.  So the information you are sharing on your website is super important right now.

  • Make sure your website tells customers HOW they can shop with you, how they inform you of their needs on arrival and what the journey will look like for them.
  • Tell customers whether staff will be wearing face masks and how communication will work.
  • You can use your Contact page to store this information and it will definitely put your customers at ease.

The challenges that deaf people have come across with face masks being worn more has led to a number of manufacturers producing face masks with a transparent panel in front of the lips.  This enables deaf people to better lipread. These face masks are being tested currently for usability, and we will be sharing more on this in the coming weeks.

What’s coming up…

Next week we will focus on the benefits of smiling – and how to create an impact from smiling whilst wearing a face mask.

We will share our tips for creating that authentic smile that can be seen in the eyes – a must have secret that is useful for all customer facing areas right now.