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Maricopa County receives donated clear masks to help the deaf and hard of hearing read lips

Mask requirements have made it difficult for deaf and hard of hearing residents communicate.

PHOENIX — There are 1.1 million people in Arizona who are deaf or hard of hearing, according to the Arizona Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and a lot of them read lips in order to communicate.  

Many cities require masks to be worn in public places and businesses to help stop the spread of COVID-19, and it's made it difficult for those who can't hear to communicate.

On Thursday, Maricopa County Board Supervisor Jack Sellers presented 10,000 donated clear transparent masks to the Arizona Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing which will be available free to Maricopa County residents.

“We’re learning a lot of things during this pandemic that we never thought about before. It seems so obvious once you talk about it and deal with it,” said Jack Sellers, who helped procure the donated masks after a constituent brought the need to his attention.

The masks were donated by Clear Mask based in Baltimore, Maryland. Another 20,000 masks will be distributed throughout Arizona.

The clear see-through masks will now make it easier for the deaf and hard of hearing to communicate.

“We really rely on lip-reading. Facial expression. So, when you cover your face with the cloth. We are disconnected from communication. It is a barrier to our community. These masks are really more for the hearing people so we can communicate,” said Sherri Collins, the executive director of Arizona Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

The demand is already high for clear masks.

“There is a high demand for healthcare. Schools are asking for the information. Audiologists. Businesses. Restaurants. Banks and family members that have children or family members who are deaf or hard of hearing are asking for them so they can communicate with their family members,” said Collins.

If you're interested in the masks you can visit the Arizona Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing website at: www.acdhh.org/get-involved/covid-19-resources/

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