Sept 2020 East Devon News

Deaf Academy(l-r) Oliver and Tim Phillips, Exeter Chiefs Foundation trustee Alan Quantick, Deaf Academy assistant principal Mark Stocks and fundraising appeal manager Sarah Shaw

The Deaf Academy in Exmouth has been gifted a batch of transparent face masks after a pupil’s dad turned to his favourite rugby team. Tim Phillips realised his son Oliver, 14, and his fellow classmates would struggle to communicate wearing standard coverings so approached the Exeter Chiefs Foundation. Trustees of the club’s charity arm handed over a box of the items – complete with see-through panels – last week. Tim said: “Wearing clear-panel face masks is key for Oliver to lip read and be able to understand what people are saying. I know they are very supportive of the community, so I thought, ‘why not give them a call? I was really pleased when they said they would be able to help.’ “Oliver is great, he just gets on with things, but as a family we could see how this was impacting him, so it is good to be able to do something that makes a difference. Unless you have the lived experience of deafness it can be hard to understand the impact of not being able to see people’s faces clearly when they are speaking, and we hope more and more people will begin to understand this.”

The Deaf Academy, which opened it state-of-the-art new home on the former Rolle College site in Exmouth earlier this month, has been advocating clear face coverings since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Assistant principal Mark Stocks said: ‘The mandatory wearing of face coverings in many public places makes communication especially difficult for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. “We would encourage people to use clear panel masks or face coverings as much as possible, and also to be aware of the difficulties deaf people may face when communicating with people who are wearing a standard mask. I recently flew to Scotland from Bristol and, despite having a cochlear implant, I struggled to communicate with anyone, no-one in the airport had clear face masks or visors, and would not lower them to help with lip-reading.

Going through security was particularly difficult and has put me off flying during the current pandemic. We are extremely grateful to the Exeter Chiefs Foundation for supplying us these branded face coverings, they are already very popular with our students and staff.’

Exeter Chiefs Foundation chairman Tony Rowe OBE said: “My fellow trustees and I were delighted to be able to help. “Although, in the scheme of things, it was a small contribution for our charity to make, it is one that will make a huge difference to a lot of people. The difficulties deaf people are experiencing with traditional face coverings during the current restrictions wasn’t immediately obvious until Tim and Oliver contacted us. The Exeter Chiefs Foundation exists to assist and enhance the lives of the local community and this request fitted our criteria perfectly.”

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