As the wearing of face coverings becomes mandatory in shops in England, today (24 July), findings from Business Disability Forum suggest that 90 per cent of businesses and organisations would recommend the use of clear panel face coverings to their employees, customers and clients.
Business Disability Forum conducted the research in response to concerns raised by the National Deaf Children’s Society and the wider D/deaf community about the communication difficulties caused by opaque face masks and coverings.
There are 12 million people who are deaf or living with a hearing loss in the UK and almost all of them rely on visual clues, such as lip reading and facial expressions, to communicate.
Business Disability Forum represents a huge cross section of business. Its members employ an estimated 20 per cent of the UK workforce. More than 30 members responded to the survey from across the public, private and third sector.
The findings showed overwhelming support among businesses for clear face coverings to be made more widely available, with two thirds (63%) also saying they would be prepared to make their use compulsory among staff and customers.
However, respondents also highlighted the need for the Government to take urgent action to officially approve the use of transparent face coverings. For health and safety reasons, many organisations felt unable to source and purchase face coverings, without official guidance in place.
Business Disability Forum is calling on the Government to:
- Update its face mask guidance for businesses and the general public to reflect the benefits for lip readers of the use of clear panel face coverings.
- To approve the use of clear panel face coverings or both PPE and non-PPE use.
Diane Lightfoot, CEO, Business Disability Forum said:
“Cloth face coverings are creating a significant communication barrier for lip readers and for the huge number of people who may be unaware that they rely on lip reading to support their hearing.
“Our members have told us that they want to remove this barrier for their employees, customers and clients, but to do so safely, they need swift action from the Government.”
The term face covering includes face masks, full face shields and fixed screens.
Susan Daniels OBE, Chief Executive of the National Deaf Children’s Society, said:
“It’s fantastic news that businesses overwhelmingly support the use of clear face coverings among their staff, customers and clients. Alongside a better understanding of how to communicate clearly with deaf people, these masks would be a real game-changer.
“As opaque masks and coverings become widespread, deaf people like me are already facing a daily battle to understand what others are saying. Whether we are in cafes and restaurants, out shopping, taking public transport or socialising with friends, conversations are much more difficult because we can’t see someone’s face to lipread.
“The National Deaf Children’s Society is campaigning for a Government-led plan to introduce clear face masks across the country. The Government has the reach and the resources to make this happen and with the support of business, it has a genuine opportunity to make a real difference to deaf people’s lives.”