Relief for the deaf after face shields donation

Thandeka Same and Phumelele Jemane, on the background, are relieved after face shields donation. /Sandiso Phalis
Thandeka Same and Phumelele Jemane, on the background, are relieved after face shields donation. /Sandiso Phalis

A donation of 50 face shield masks for deaf people in and around East London will assist in the deaf community's added struggle to communicate since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Buffalo Deaf Association (BDA) co-ordinated the donation from Mercedes-Benz SA (MBSA) after noting the challenges experienced by those who were deaf.

Wearing of face masks is now a legal requirement for all South Africans, which creates an obstacle to communication for the deaf.

Pumelele Jemane, who was born deaf, said wearing cloth masks created serious challenges for deaf people as communication with their deaf peers and the general public relied on lip reading and decoding of messages through facial expression.

He said the face shields would assist a great deal in effective communication and sign language decoding.

BDA chair Nomvuzo Luwaca, who was behind the donation of the shields to deaf people at the City Hall in East London on Saturday, said: "They have serious challenges and are going through a lot."

Luwaca's late sister, Winiwe Ntshangase, was born deaf and she is the reason Luwaca formed the East London-based non-profit organisation which is affiliated with the SA National Deaf Association and whose aim is to integrate deaf people into society.

Luwaca experienced the challenges experienced by deaf people and the stigma associated with being deaf, through her sister, but at the time she was too young to fully appreciate them.

In 2002, when Luwaca was beginning to understand basic sign language technique, Winiwe died.

Luwaca's organisation also works to introduce people who are able to talk with those in the deaf community. She wants people to be tolerant of the deaf and the government to promote sign language.

Luwaca said institutions which catered for the deaf were few and far in between.

"There are not enough. "How is a deaf person going to communicate at the police station and at the clinics?" she asked.

Nomawethu Pali from Mdantsane, who has been deaf all her life, was thankful for the facial shields.

"Wearing the transparent shield masks makes communication easier and it is clearer for us to see facial expression, because facial expression is key. Our lives will now be easier," said Pali.

Luwaca said she was grateful to MBSA for the donation.

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