Hazel – Experience as a Deaf person during COVID
1. How have you found working during the Covid pandemic?
When the pandemic took over in March, I had been on a week’s annual leave to come back to the office basically empty. I found this quite stressful as there was a lot of hustle and bustle with people talking and I wasn’t too sure what was going on. People were going home left, right and centre. Michelle my boss was amazing support and said, “I can go home or stay in work,” my choice. My choice was to continue to attend work, the personal reasons for this were, it was easier to support Michelle and my mental health. I could count on both hands how many times I have worked from home. I was very anxious as masks were being discussed and Michelle knew how I felt about this. She always had kept me in the loop, I really appreciated this.
2. What has your experience been of wearing a facemask in work?
In the Public Health Agency there were a lot of discussions regarding face masks and my heart sunk, because when masks were brought in for us to start to accommodate this, communication became an issue for me. I was extremely anxious about this because my job was hard enough by having to lip read colleagues all day every day, then when the masks were introduced, I felt physically sick.
3. What has your experience been of others wearing facemasks in work?
Some people were and are very good and respectful. My colleagues who know me normally would remove the masks from their mouth to enable me to lip-read when talking to me, whether it was to see how I was or asked me to help them with something. Others who didn’t know me would speak, I would say I am deaf and they would move it down which I appreciated There have been a few who have gone out of their way not to speak to me and that is fine.
4. Again relating to the wearing of facemasks, do you have any suggestions that might improve the experience for you in the office?
I would find it hard to make suggestions due to the masks being mandatory. We have to wear them if we are not able to social distance 2 metres. We have to set an example to the public. I wish people knew without having to explain every single time, I am deaf can you please remove your mask and I would ensure social distancing occurred.
5. Outside of work, how do you feel Covid has impacted on you as a Deaf person?
It has been a tough year for everyone due to Covid but when someone who relies on lip-reading it has been extremely tough not being able to communicate with people. As I don’t have a big sign above my head, people cannot see my disability therefore it makes it really hard. It is soul destroying when you point to your ear and say I am deaf and the person continues to talk to you when you can’t understand. They refuse 100% to remove their masks even though I know to stand 2 metres away from them. Our kids have been supportive, they have to be our translators which is unfair. This is extremely hard as I am a very independent person and don’t like relying on others.
6. What has your experience been of accessing services during the pandemic, for example, shopping, doctors or public transport?
Accessing public services has been extremely hard, with people permanently talking to you when you can’t understand them. Doctors were hard to get in touch with, ordering prescriptions, seeing the doctors with my kids, life now is an absolute chore.