Face masks are ubiquitous, essential, and — if we’re being honest — sometimes a little annoying to wear. But while some of us might complain about the discomfort of wearing a mask, there are some people who face more serious concerns. For many Deaf people, lip reading is an important method of communication. But most masks obscure our mouths, making that impossible.
Rosalie Taillefer-Simard, an artist and media personality who’s well known in Quebec for being the daughter of famed singer René Simard and TV presenter Marie-Josée Taillefer, is leading the charge in the province to make masks more accessible. She’s hard of hearing, and is promoting the use of masks with a clear plastic panel over the mouth to allow for lip reading.
There seems to be a bit of a knowledge gap about those masks, she said. In a video she posted to Facebook last month that has since racked up more than a million views, she explained she was thrown out of a hardware store while wearing that kind of a mask.
“I couldn’t believe it,” she says in French in the video.
Luckily, she had another, more typical mask in her car, so she was able to go back inside. “I’d love to understand why these masks aren’t accepted in some stores,” she said.
She seemed rattled in the video, but added that she doesn’t want anyone watching to have a bad day because of her experience.
“These are things that are just confusing for people who are Deaf or hard of hearing,” she said. “But I’ll keep smiling.”
Following the video, she teamed up with designer Jean Airoldi to design masks with clear panelling for easy lip reading. The masks will sell for $25 each, and will be released on Sept. 1.
Last week, Taillefer-Simard and Airoldi met with Quebec’s premier François Legault to talk about the needs of Deaf people.
“Because Rosalie Taillefer-Simard is a name Quebecers know, this helps other people who are hard of hearing because she’s explaining what we go through,” Jeanne Choquette, president of the Deaf advocacy group Audition Quebec, told La Presse.
Taillefer-Simard’s project is in line with other Canadians who are trying to make the pandemic easier for the hard of hearing. Moved by a Deaf friend’s experience, musician Naomi Grace is making and distributing badges that Deaf people can wear to make it clear to the people around them how they can more effectively communicate. They’re available in English and French, and she’s made them available through Google Drive so people can print their own.
The pandemic has made much of daily life more difficult for people who are Deaf or hard of hearing.