Deaf students are returning to University with some concerns this month and next.  There are concerns about wearing face coverings and about returning to University face to face.

This article will discuss deaf student’s concerns over face coverings at University; and give you some guidance about how to best support deaf students at this time.

Face Coverings

As we know, face coverings have become mandatory since 24th July.  However, it is worth noting that there are a number of exemptions.

Government guidance of when you do not have to wear face coverings:

You do not need to wear face coverings if you have a legitimate reason not to. This includes (but is not limited to):

  • Young children under the age of 11 (Public Health England do not recommended face coverings for children under the age of 3 for health and safety reasons)

  • Not being able to put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability

  • If putting on, wearing or removing face coverings will cause you severe distress

  • If you are travelling with or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading to communicate

  • To avoid harm or injury, or the risk of harm or injury, to yourself or others

  • In order to avoid injury, or to escape a risk of harm, and you do not have a face covering with you

  • Allow you to eat or drink if reasonably necessary

  • In order to take medication

  • If a police officer or other official requests you remove your face covering

Whilst this is useful in terms of communication with those who are not mask wearing – it still makes it impossible for those who are wearing a mask.

Transparent Face Coverings

With some sessions being delivered face to face at University this Academic year, to address concerns over face coverings when deaf students return to University, it is worth noting that there are transparent face masks available that enable deaf students to still read lip patterns* and see facial expressions.  Check out our article here about how to help choose one. 

The transparent panel can get misted/fogged up – so you will need to use a spray such as ‘muc off’ or other de-misting solutions used for swimming goggles and scuba gear.

Here are two providers of transparent face masks that you can look into:

Molly Watt Trust – https://www.molly-watt-trust.org/shop – these have a larger transparent panel

Friendly Face Masks – https://www.friendlyfacemasks.co.uk

  • Please note that lipreading does not replace access to British Sign Language for deaf students at University, so if needed you should still provide a BSL Interpreter.

Let’s be clear that transparent masks are not the entire solution, as they are not always easily available, do mist up and produce poorer sound quality.

We recommend that you discuss what you are thinking with the deaf student to help them with any concerns, so that you can check that this will work for them.

NDCS, BATOD and NATSip have put together some really useful guidance:

Meeting the needs of deaf young people as further education providers reopen

which will give you a chance to look at the wider considerations for returning deaf students to University.