Deaf children must not be left behind as masks return in schools

As the government announces face masks will return for secondary school students in England, Sound Waves Foundation is calling on schools to introduce free live captioning, to prevent deaf children being left behind.  


Nicola Wyatt from Sound Waves Foundation said: “Mask wearing has understandably returned to reduce teacher and student absences. However, there is growing evidence from around the world suggesting that mask wearing has a negative effect on children’s mental health, their wellbeing and their ability to communicate”.


“Masks can be even more damaging for deaf and hearing-impaired children who may rely on lip reading and facial expressions to communicate. Mask wearing makes this form of communication impossible and could leave deaf and hearing-impaired children isolated and unable to learn.


“Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have been rigorously testing the use of live classroom captions as an accessibility tool and have learned a lot. Live captions is a speech-to-text AI technology which is easy to use and readily available for free, making it simple and cost-effective for any school to adopt. We have created a series of guides that can help schools.


“Live captioning significantly supports teachers and students during a period when masks restrict communication for everyone, not just deaf and hard of hearing. We believe captioning has the power to help all children access learning and improve literacy in the long term. Our vision is for live captioning to be used as a standard classroom aid in schools across the country.”


Visit the Sound Waves Foundation for captioning guides and more information on our Action for Captions campaign.