Deaf and blind communities struggle during pandemic

WWNY Deaf and blind communities struggle during pandemic

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - What do you do when you navigate the world through touch, but touching is seen as dangerous? What do you do when you communicate by watching mouths, but those mouths are obscured by masks?

It's a challenge for the deaf and blind communities.

LucyJo Tuttle is completely deaf. When 7 News spoke with her, she was accompanied by sign-language translator Michelle Smiley. But she doesn't always have that help.

"I rely on lip-reading, and with the masks, I can't read lips so I don't know what anybody is saying to me," said Tuttle.

She says the pandemic has taken some of her independence. She no longer feels comfortable going in public on her own.

"My sister or niece will go with me in the store or I won't go at all," said Tuttle. "It makes me feel vulnerable and almost isolated at times."

The deaf community isn't the only one facing challenges with new health standards.

"When you have a visual impairment, tactile is how you get around. You read braille signs for doors, to figure out what's the mens' room, what's the ladies' room, all of that, what office am I at, all of that is by touch, and kinda dangerous right now," said Aileen Martin, NRCIL executive director.

And touch is a sensitive thing; the blind can't just wear gloves to avoid germy surfaces because then they can't read or discern what they're feeling.

Tuttle says there are a few things that could help.

"Masks that have a plastic clear see-through section for the mouth so that you can lip read, so if those could be made and made accessible, that would be great," she said.

Or just being understanding of the hearing or visually impaired as we all try to adjust to new ways of living.

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