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Charity celebrates win on government guidance for mandatory face coverings on public transport for those who lip read

15 June 2020

From 15 June 2020, it is the law that you must wear a face covering when travelling in England on public transport. Action on Hearing loss has been engaging with the Department for Transport and calling for guidance on the need for exemptions [1].

The government have now detailed the requirement to wear a face covering does not apply if you have a reasonable excuse not to. Reasonable excuses include: “if you are travelling with or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading to communicate”. This is a great step forward and will help the 12 million people in the UK who are deaf or have hearing loss.

With thousands of people returning to work this week and having to use public transport, it is vital that the deaf and hearing loss community are still able to go about their daily lives. Many people who are deaf or have hearing loss rely heavily on visual cues for effective communication including facial expressions and lip-reading. Being able to see lip patterns and facial expressions is also vital for those who communicate through British Sign Language. Words which sound similar but have different meanings become very difficult to distinguish. Face coverings are a big barrier to this.

Roger Wicks, Director of Policy and Campaigns at Action on Hearing Loss said;

“We are thrilled that the government has taken on board our recommendations and cited that there is an exemption for those that rely on lip reading to communicate. Many with hearing loss rely on lipreading to communicate and face coverings make this impossible. Our driving force at the moment is to ensure that people with hearing loss can communicate whilst also protecting themselves and others.”

“It is vital these exemptions are communicated to transport staff and the travelling public – many disabled people fear they may be abused in the street for not following social distancing guidelines, and the public need to understand that there are numerous legitimate reasons for not wearing a mask. We are engaging with both the Government and rail operators to promote deaf awareness and ensure that people living with hearing loss and deafness receive the extra support they need to overcome the barriers caused by facemasks.”

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Notes to editors

Action on Hearing Loss (formerly RNID) is the national charity helping people living with deafness, tinnitus and hearing loss to live the life they choose. Action on Hearing Loss enables them to take control of their lives and remove the barriers in their way, giving people support and care, developing technology and treatments, and campaigning for equality.

1] http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2020/592/part/2/made

2] Communication tips:

General communication tips for someone with hearing loss

Communication tips for the general public