Deaf Sussex boy calls for see-through face masks to help people who lip read

A deaf Lancing boy has had a positive response to his campaign to raise awareness of ways to communicate with people who cannot hear.

Austin Goddard, 12, wrote to Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the summer, asking for see-through face masks to be introduced across the country, and is now following up by offering deaf awareness goody bags to organisations and companies across Sussex.

Funding from the National Deaf Children’s Society’s Make a Change Fund and support from Brighton, Hove and West Sussex Deaf Children’s Society has helped Austin to continue his bid to make people more aware of how to communicate well with deaf people.

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Austin is severely to profoundly deaf and he uses a taxi to get to and from school. When face masks were introduced, he was unable to communicate with the driver, which gave him the inspiration for his campaign.

Austin Goddard with his hearing dog, Roman

Austin said: “My taxi driver has to wear a face mask but it covers up his mouth, so I can’t understand what he’s saying. It makes me sad but it got me thinking.

“That’s why I made the goody bags. I just thought it would be nice if everyone could communicate a bit better, then I wouldn’t feel so lonely. Anyone who wants one can have one.

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

The National Deaf Children’s Society said the response had been positive and so far, goody bags had been given out to schools, hospital children’s wards and taxi and transport companies.

Austin’s mum, Justine, said: “I’m very proud of Austin for raising this important issue. Austin was encouraged and praised by some local schools and taxi firms, who were extremely grateful and ready to support his campaign, so thank you to them, but I’m still a little disappointed that there has been initial resistance from some quarters.

“Deaf people rely on lip-reading and facial expressions and a smile can speak a thousand words. If we make clear masks much more widely available, it will make a world of difference to deaf people like Austin.”

The goody bags contain top tips for communicating with deaf people while wearing a face mask, instructions on how to sign some basic words and phrases, plus a see-through face mask to make lip-reading easier.

Nicola Partridge, from the Make a Change team, said: “I want to congratulate Austin on his fantastic campaign to make his local community as accessible as possible for deaf young people. We hope everyone takes note of the need for good communication with deaf people.

“As Austin points out, the issue of face coverings is crucially important right now, and something that the UK’s 50,000 deaf children are having to deal with each and every day.

“This issue needs to be addressed urgently. In the meantime, there are so many simple things that people can do to demonstrate good deaf awareness, such as using gestures, writing things down – and of course wearing a clear face mask.”

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