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Wednesday, 21 October 2020

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Deaf 11-year-old and his MP ask Boris Johnson for see-through face masks

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An 11-year-old deaf boy has written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson asking him to introduce see-through face masks across the country.

Austin Goddard, 11, from Lancing, West Sussex, is severe to profoundly deaf and decided to send the letter because he relies on lip-reading to understand what people are saying.

Current face masks, which aren’t see-through, make lip-reading and the understanding of facial expressions much more difficult, leaving deaf people struggling.

Austin also contacted his local MP, Tim Loughton, who wrote back and promised to personally raise the issue with the Prime Minister.

MP’s letter

Austin has filmed himself reading out his letter on social media.

He said the current type of face mask made it much harder to communicate, he said:

“I have to lip-read to understand what anyone is saying, and so do a lot of my friends. The masks that cover up mouths are awful. I don’t like them and they make me feel sad and lonely because I can’t understand what anybody is saying. I also find them very scary.

“It’s important for deaf people to see lips and I’d like everyone to wear a see-through mask.”

Austin’s mum Justine backed his call, she said:

“I’m very proud of Austin for raising this important issue, but I’m also sad that in this day and age, a child has to raise something that should already be in place. Deaf people rely on lip-reading and facial expressions and a smile can speak a thousand words.

“If we make clear masks available, at the very least for key workers, it will make a world of difference.”

The National Deaf Children’s Society has also called on the Government, Public Health England and NHS England to look into making transparent face masks widely available.

Letter

Sally Etchells, Government Relations Adviser at the charity, said:

“This is a hugely important issue for deaf people across the country and it’s great to see young people like Austin picking up the fight.

“If face masks become widespread and none of them are transparent, deaf people will face months of misery as they struggle to understand what’s being said to them, putting them at an even higher risk of isolation and loneliness at a critical time.

“This issue needs to be addressed urgently and we hope the Government acts swiftly. Millions of deaf people across the country are depending on it.”

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