Standard face masks are a huge barrier to learning for deaf students. They muffle speech, hide facial expressions and make it impossible to lip-read. Clear masks would remove this barrier and, for a small amount of effort, greatly benefit their educations.
It is therefore disappointing that, despite promising the National Deaf Children’s Society back in October that new guidance would be published advising teachers to wear clear masks, this has not happened. The guidance has been updated several times since October but has never included advice to wear clear masks.
I don’t understand why the Government is avoiding making this minor change to the education guidance when others have been more accommodating for deaf people.
For example, last September, I wrote to the Chief Executive of NHS England, Sir Simon Stevens, to ask him to review the commissioning and availability of protective face masks and visors/shields for use in health settings.
In response to the concerns raised by the deaf community, the NHS created and shared a ‘toolkit’ to help NHS trusts adapt to mask wearing, which includes a section on how to support people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Even better, Sir Simon told me that the NHS had ordered 250,000 clear face masks and was in the process of receiving and distributing these masks to where they were most needed. This was to be followed by more orders of clear masks in the future.
I want the Government to follow the example of the NHS on this issue and make an effort to accommodate rather than alienate deaf students.
I have written to the Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson, and raised this issue with him and I have posted a copy below for you to see.