American Sign Language Club, Counseling Center offers support for deaf, hard of hearing during COVID-19


ASL handmade clear face masks that they donated to a local organization that works with children who would benefit from their use. 

Stacey Franciamore, Editor-in-Chief

The American Sign Language Club co-sponsored an event with the Iona College Counseling Center, “Beyond Body Language: Social Skills when Social Distancing,” to provide psychoeducation on how face masks and social distancing have impacted communication for neurodivergent,deaf and hard of hearing communities on Sept. 18.  


The event aimed to address the challenges people with hearing loss are facing due to the use of face masks and coverings and offer guidance and support.  


“The main goal of our co-sponsorship with the Iona College Counseling Center was to offer support for social skills while social distancing, with the added layer of educating attendees on two communities affected by the communication barriers posed by distancing and mask use: neurodivergent individuals and individuals with hearing loss,” senior and president of ASL Nicole Genser said in an email.  


Attendees gained awareness and learned specific tips on how to communicate.  


“They got some helpful tips on how to utilize eyes, eyebrows, posture and arm movements to decipher how someone else might be feeling. In addition, they also received some helpful tips for planning and initiating virtual and socially distant hangouts in order to put their skills into practice,” Ali Swoish of the Counseling Center said in an email 


ASL has been active in providing resources and support to the deaf and hard of hearing communities during this time. They recently made and donated clear face masks to St. Francis de Sales School for the Deaf in Brooklyn, New York.  


“Back in April, when mask-use was becoming our new norm, there were stories in the news about the individuals that had begun to make clear masks to aid the deaf and hard of hearing community,” Genser said. “ I thought this was important because people with hearing loss, like myself, face a great communication barrier due to the inaccessibility of traditional face coverings. Our club advisor, Dr. Michelle Veyvoda, was aware of these articles and barriers too, and inspired the idea for our club to develop this service project.”  


There are also a few things others can do to better communicate with face masks on, according to Genser.  


“Communicating while wearing masks, for anyone, is tough, but if you are speaking to someone with hearing loss, or notice that the other person is struggling to understand, you could alleviate the difficulties by doing the following: speak louder and slower to improve volume and clarity, move to a quieter environment if possible, wear a clear mask to allow access for lipreading and facial cues or you can even type what you are saying into your notes and show them your phone!” Genser said.  



To learn more about ASL and their initiatives, visit them on Instagram (Frances can you hyperlink this?) or email [email protected]