AZUSA, Calif. — Rising coronavirus cases mean wearing a mask in public spaces and outdoors will continue to be mandatory. Yet while they help reduce the spread of the virus, they can be a barrier for people who read lips.

Daily tasks have become more difficult for many in the deaf community as they try to communicate with others.

What You Need To Know

  • Face masks can create barriers for people who read lips to communicate

  • This has made daily tasks more difficult for members of the deaf community

  • For anyone in the deaf community who may need help communicating, assistance is available

  • Sign language interpreters are available 24/7 through 211 LA

Christa Tamparong lives in Azusa and was born deaf. Going to the grocery store is much harder for her these days as she typically reads lips.

“I’m the one in our family who does the majority of our shopping, so having the mask wearing just added a different dimension to our everyday thing that I normally do,” Tamparong said.

Tamparong now signs with her sons or husband to help her communicate while shopping, and rarely shops alone so they can tell her what was said.

“My mom she lip reads a lot and she’s not really able to do it with the mask on, so we really have to pay attention to the one person and block out all the noise so we can understand what is going on and tell her,” her middle son Spencer Tamparong said.

Ordering food from the car is also more difficult for her now.

“When extra questions are asked through a drive thru most of the time it’s all muffled and I can’t really understand,” Tamparong said. “So I get really frustrated.”

She has cochlear implants which are hearing devices that were surgically placed in her ear. They help, but a lot of sound is still lost.  

“It has helped me in this situation but even with my implants I still miss things, if it’s a lot of noise, or if the person has an accent or they aren’t talking loud enough or whatever it may be,” Tamparong said.

She admits daily tasks are harder now because of masks, but safer too. So she’s accepted it as her new normal.

“In this tough world that we’re living in right now I need to make it a positive experience anyway. I can’t be mad that everyone has to wear a mask because it’s keeping us safe. It’s keeping my family safe,” Tamparong said. “So I’m going to wear the mask and I’m going to just deal with the situation that I’m dealt with and make the best of it.”.

For anyone in the deaf community who may need help communicating, assistance is available. Sign language interpreters are available for people with disabilities who live in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernadino and Ventura counties. Services include emergency and non-emergency sign language interpreters and there are no geographic restrictions. Interpreters are available 24 hours a day and seven days a week. Requests can be made for any situation, including medical and law enforcement emergencies.

For more information visit 211 LA.