Turning to tech: The deaf community works to overcome mask obstacles

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COLORADO SPRINGS — Masks right now are seen as an important tool in curbing the spread of COVID-19, but for some, they present a different kind of challenge.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced many to change their habits, and it presents a different set of challenges for Darrell Shular. 

“I can’t hear, I’m fully deaf,” said Shular the dorm supervisor for the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind.

Shular relies on facial expressions to communicate, and right now, in many cases, those are blocked by masks.

“In American Sign Language, it’s not just the sign itself and just a normal sign, but the facial expression included with that sign,” Shular signed.

On Friday, Governor Jared Polis extended Colorado’s statewide mask mandate for another 30 days, ending now September 13.

While there are exemptions for the hearing impaired, who in some cases don’t have to wear masks, Shular relies on seeing the face of the person he’s talking to so he can understand what they’re saying.

“Even on Facebook, I’ve seen numerous comments of people that are frustrated with the masks because some people like clerks things of that sort, and they take off their masks and just sort of yell at you,” according to Shular.

He says many in the deaf community are turning to technology to break the communication barrier.

“I know many deaf people have been utilizing several different apps… it’ll actually speak what the person typed, and the person can hear it, so they don’t have to look at the phone,” Shular signed.

Likely putting a smile on many faces.  

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