COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Columbus residents are being told to wear masks when they go out in public, but while that mask may serve as a barrier to the coronavirus, it has also become a barrier in communication for one group of people: the deaf and hard of hearing.

Mask wearing makes lip reading impossible for those who rely on it.

“You can only see the top part of the face, so your eyebrows, and (you can’t see) expression. It doesn’t really communicate well,” John Moore, the executive director of the Deaf Services Center said.

The non-profit, which works with the deaf community in advocacy, education, and youth services has received several comments about it.

 “We’ve had a lot of complaints,” Moore added.

It’s especially a problem during tasks like getting groceries. Trying to communicate in other ways also brings challenges.

“Writing back and forth sometimes works for some, but at the same time, you have to practice social distancing,” Moore added.

The CDC said wearing masks while in public is essential in the fight against COVID-19. Moore hopes to see more people using clear masks, that allow others to see more of someone’s face. Some have made their own, but Moore wishes they were more widely available. 

According to numbers from the Deaf Services Center, metro Columbus has one of the highest populations of deaf and hard of hearing people in Ohio.

“I would estimate it at between 60,000 and 75,000,” Moore added.

If you would like to order a special clear mask, you can contact the Deaf Services Center through their website

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