Imagine you are at the shops and the cashier asks you a question. You can see that she’s waiting for your answer, because her eyes tell you so. But you don’t know what she is saying. Nor can you read her lips, which – in normal times – is how you get by in situations like these. Today, the cashier is wearing a face mask.
One of our team, Vix, was born deaf. She has always lived in the ‘hearing world’ in which
I mainly thought I could ‘get away with it.’”
Vix joined the team in February so getting to know her has largely been limited to online sessions, emails and WhatsApp. Given the steep learning curve we’ve all faced in adapting to using new platforms, it is even more impressive that Vix’s ability to lipread on Zoom is such that many of our team had no idea that she was deaf until last week.
Nor had it occurred to some of us how beneficial transparent face masks might be (arguably not just for those who are hard of hearing).
… is how Vix describes the impression she gains of people wearing cloth face masks. Her response to her own recent experiences, which have left her feeling isolated, has been to turn them into something positive: Vix has decided to tell the story of her deafness:
“Instead of hiding that part of me .. I need to stand up and acknowledge my deafness .. [as] an essential and positive part of me.”
It’s a brave move, and Vix admits to being terrified about starting her blog, which is entitled, ‘I am deaf‘. Vix is currently unable to attend any virtual meetings as one of her hearing aids has stopped functioning. Meetings already held challenges as there is a great deal – body language etc – which cannot be interpreted online.
Vix hopes that automated subtitles will become available on Zoom, but otherwise she relies on the lighting on each team member’s face being good enough for her to read their lips, and it’s always great when the ‘chat’ facility is used. Of course, it’s tricky when hands go over mouths (something many of us do unconsciously). As Vix says,
“If I can’t lipread, then it’s like a blur, and when people speak louder, it’s just a louder blur!!! With lipreading, and facial expressions, the blur turns into a sound that I recognise. It’s really tricky to explain actually. It just becomes clearer.”
Some Zoom Tips
Please do take a look. Think about all the people you’re going to encounter – online and in reality – over the next weeks and months.
“Be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle. And if you really want to see what people are, all you have to do is look.” – Auggie Pullman (Wonder)