Editor’s Note: Ms. Manley had a follow-up visit and reports: “Communications with security personnel went smoothly. They typed up the COVID 19 questions. One of the security personnel went with me to my doctor's office to make sure all the nurses understood to lower their masks speaking with me. What a difference it makes! My hope is that is done for all deaf/hard of hearing patients.”

To the Editor:

Opaque face masks exclude deaf and hard of hearing from lip-reading. I’m aware of clear tight-fitting face masks just on the market, but unless the deaf and hard of hearing push for these masks in hospitals and doctors’ offices, nothing will happen.

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I am feeling frustrated and isolated. I recently was at a local hospital (for two visits). At the entrance were security personnel. I told them I was deaf, asked them to lower their face masks so I could lip-read them. On the first visit, they refused and on the second visit, they became very aggressive.

Fortunately, there was someone with me who told me what security was saying. This could be easily resolved by educating personnel how to communicate with deaf/hard of hearing people during COVID-19, including having security wear clear face masks and printing questions on a large board. Security can point to the questions, while the deaf/hard of hearing can answer by nodding or shaking their head.

I filed a formal compliant with the hospital’s office of patient experience. The actions of the security personnel violated three federal laws: the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Rehabilitation Act and the Civil Rights Act.

I have to go back, and I am going alone and dread it. The patient experience representative said she would meet me at the security checkpoint.

I also called the doctor's office to confirm my appointment. I used a captioned telephone, calling four times, (and) each time the appointment desk hung up on me. On the fifth call, someone answered.

Yes, I am tired of fighting this communication battle … the anxiety, the loneliness. I feel very excluded where I live, (and) the majority of tenants wear masks. I have asked them to lower their masks so I can lip-read them. Some won't, even when we are more than six feet apart.

Fortunately, I can take walks with “Trusty,” my cart. It is on these walks I have met many kind friendly people.

To all those out there going through a difficult time, hang in there! Better days are ahead.

Missy Manley, Belmar, NJ

To learn more about health care access for the hearing impaired, click here for the National Association of the Deaf’s “Statement on health care access for deaf patients.”


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