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Face coverings in England: deaf people must not be excluded as restrictions change

Following the UK Government’s announcement that face coverings will once again be compulsory in shops, public services, and on public transport in England from Tuesday 30 November, RNID is calling on the Government and businesses to address the needs of deaf people and people with hearing loss. 

Mark Atkinson, our Chief Executive, said today: 

“Of course we understand why the Government has taken urgent action in response to the risk posed by the Covid Omicron variant. But the Government, shops and transport companies must address the needs of deaf people and those with hearing loss, so wider mandatory use of face masks in England doesn’t exclude them from services and leave them isolated.  

“Without being able to see people’s faces to support lip reading and other communication, many deaf people have struggled to access their normal, essential services during the pandemic. Two out of three told us they had avoided going into public places because they were worried about their communication needs not being met after masks were first introduced. This must not happen now.

“Some people are also exempt from wearing masks because of the need to accommodate hearing aids or cochlear implants or because they are accompanying someone with hearing loss. These exemptions need to be properly communicated to avoid situations where people are challenged unfairly and aggressively because they aren’t wearing a mask. 

“It’s vital that information for deaf communities about these changes is accessible to them, including updates in British Sign Language. In addition, there are three simple actions that will ensure deaf people and people with hearing loss still have access to services, while staying safe.  

  • First, people working in shops and transport should be encouraged to wear face coverings with a clear panel and reminded that they are allowed to lower their mask to support communication, wherever it’s safe to do so. 
  • Second, the Government’s updates about mask wearing should include information about deaf people’s communication needs and about exemptions.  
  • Finally, the Government should reassure businesses and the public about the safety of wearing clear face masks, to encourage greater deaf awareness and better communication with deaf people and those with hearing loss.” 

Find out more

Find out how the new regulations apply to you, more information about face covering exemptions and exemption cards, and our guidance on clear face coverings. 

Our charity will continue to make sure that regulations and information about covid take account of the needs of deaf people and of people with hearing loss and tinnitus. Find out more about how we do this. 

Share your story 

Please continue to share your experiences with us to inform our campaigning work.  

Whether it’s to tell us about a positive or negative experience you have had communicating in a shop or on public transport, or whether you are affected by the exemptions, we would love to hear from you. 

You can contact us by emailing tellusyourstory@beta.rnid.org.uk    

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