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Masked Messages

Art by Baheshta Azizi

We live in a world of mixed messages about wearing masks. “Masked messages”, if you will.

In the past few days I’ve read:

  • Wearing a mask is a sign of love.

  • Wearing a mask is an act of fear.

  • It's like wearing clothes-- you do it to be socially acceptable.

  • You don't wear masks to protect yourself, you wear masks to protect others.

  • It's a statement of solidarity.

  • It’s my right not to wear one.

  • A mask could save your life.

  • Masks lead to a false sense of security.

Masks are recommended or mandated to protect against the spread of COVID-19. However, for some, wearing a mask can present a different type of risk and the decision to wear one is more complex than the philosophical, political, or charitable considerations. Wearing a mask can be a barrier to interacting with the world. For example, many people who are deaf and are accustomed to maneuvering the world by reading lips suddenly find communication cut off. For others, masks can trigger health conditions such as asthma or anxiety. It can even put some children in danger as muffled speech can make it difficult to understand their parents’ directions.

Just as some parents are concerned for their children with compromised immune systems and fully support the wearing of masks, other parents are worried that they won’t be able to comply with the regulations and societal expectations. Some parents encompass both. Take a moment to consider the following:

  • When you wear a mask I can't read your lips --- your friend who is deaf.

  • When my mom wears a mask I can't understand her [potentially life-saving] directions --- your friend with auditory processing disorder.

  • When I wear a mask I can’t breathe --- your friend with asthma.

  • Wearing a mask is unbearable for me --- your friend with sensory processing disorder.

  • Wearing a mask fogs up my glasses and I can’t see where I am going ---your friend with visual impairment.

  • When I wear a mask I panic ---your friend with anxiety disorder.