King County providing clear face masks to support deaf and hard of hearing people 

Pictured: Image courtesy of ClearMask

King County will make clear face masks available to employees as part of its efforts to support deaf and hard of hearing people at work and in the community.

Clear face masks are critical for the deaf and hard of hearing community, but they are only effective if the hearing community wears them. Therefore, it’s important that our customer-facing employees and employees who have deaf and hard of hearing coworkers have access to these types of masks. King County has ordered 3,600 clear face masks for customer-facing and other employees who may need them to communicate with customers and coworkers.

For people with hearing difficulties, having the mouth covered is still a major barrier. At least 5% of the world’s population has disabling hearing loss, and reading a person’s lips and facial expressions can be an important part of communicating, even for those who use sign language. Covering most of your face can make it difficult to convey emotion and impact communication with others. 

While clear face masks support the deaf and hard of hearing community, they also have a Targeted Universalism benefit for everyone. Targeted Universalism is the practice of setting universal goals pursued by targeted processes to achieve those goals. Here are some examples:

  • Clear masks make it easier for all people to read facial expressions and can alleviate anxiety in customers and even support deescalating situations.
  • Clear masks make communications easier for people whose primary language is not English.
  • Clear masks make it easier for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities to read facial cues and communicate.
  • Clear masks benefit small children by reducing anxiety due to being scared of masks and the need to be able to see facial expressions to feel safe.

A transparent mask allows you to see more of a person’s face, which may have an added mental health benefit given the increased isolation and anxiety that people are experiencing amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Departments who are interested in ordering clear face masks for their employees should contact fleetstores@kingcounty.gov