Students with a hearing disability have opted to drop out of higher education due to the mandatory use of masks, according to the Macau Deaf Association.
Association director Nerissa Lau has communicated that since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, students who have a hearing disability have had a difficult time because they are obliged to use masks at universities, which hide the lips and half of the face, making it harder to understand speech.
For those who are deaf, it is difficult to understand sign language when wearing masks, as facial expressions are an important part of sign language.
Speaking to Portuguese News Agency, Lusa, Lau has called for attention to these issues and understanding of the needs of the deaf community, adding that the use of transparent masks in the classroom would be helpful, yet would require the community to have strong contact with higher education institutions.
Data from the association shows that they have about 700 members, with a low percentage of those pursuing higher education.
Lau was speaking on the sidelines of the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the University of Saint Joseph (USJ) aiming to advocate for universal sign language education and promote a disability-friendly society in Macau.
According to the Social Welfare Institute, there were about 4,197 residents that acquired a registration card attesting to hearing impairment last year.
USJ Rector Stephen Morgan hopes to promote the universalization of sign language, stating that the inclusion of sign language courses in USJ’s Social Work degree programmes not only strengthens the long-term partnership between USJ and the association, but also further links the university and the local community, serving those in need.
Meanwhile, Jacky Ho, head of the Department of Social Work of USJ in charge of this collaborative project, also pointed out that establishing strategic partnerships with social local service agencies can help build equal rights for persons with disabilities.
He also stated incorporating sign language in future social work degree training will become a long-term trend, and that society should pay more attention to the needs of deaf people.