An open letter to Gloucestershire | December 2020
Reduce isolation for thousands of people across our county with clear face masks and clearer communication.
To the people of Gloucestershire,
We write asking you to join the Let’s Be Clear campaign, in solidarity with a wide range of people who are experiencing greater communication barriers and isolation during this pandemic.
Ways to support:
- Swap your face mask for a clear one, to make conversation easier for people who rely on lip reading and facial expressions to communicate;
- Make signs, leaflets, newsletters and online information clearer and more accessible, in support of people with sight loss, a learning disability or different communication need.
Thousands of people with different communication needs want to be fully included in the life of our county.
Clear face masks
Consider the impact of non-clear face coverings for a wide range of people in our communities, in our schools and colleges, and on our high streets – in particular, people who are deaf or hard of hearing, people with a learning disability, autism, dementia, or a speech difficulty, and people who are learning English.
A small change to wear a clear-panel face mask could make a huge difference to the people you meet when you are out and about. This is especially true if you are in a public-facing role, such as a supermarket assistant, or if you provide face-to-face support to people.
Be a part of the Let’s Be Clear movement by wearing a clear face mask, to improve communication and connection for everybody.
Here are some views of people who live and work in Gloucestershire:
“I struggle to hear people as I’m partially deaf and wear hearing aids, not seeing people’s mouths makes it more difficult.” Mandy, Gloucestershire
“I have autism and so it takes me a few seconds to actually hear and understand people. This is much harder when they’re wearing a mask. I also find it very difficult understanding people’s facial expressions and usually rely on their mouth (to look for a smile) which is now impossible.” Nicola, Gloucestershire
“My physical disability means that I don’t speak as clearly as other people. I find that people struggle to understand me and ask me to repeat myself a lot more when I am wearing a mask and they can’t see my mouth. This makes me feel more disabled and conscious of my speech in public.” Vicci, Gloucestershire
“Living in a largely masked community is like being in a country where you can’t understand the language.” Sarah, Gloucestershire
“I’m frustrated as I cannot communicate with my granny who relies on sign language and lip reading and she can’t read lips with masks. She has felt so alone, my granny refuses to leave the house and it’s so damaging to see her struggle so much and be so isolated and alone.” Rhona, Gloucestershire
Speaking for one of the Let’s Be Clear campaign partners, Barnwood Trust, Lucy Adam said: “We can all help by being more aware and making simple adaptations like swapping our face mask for a clear one. The benefits will be different for different people but finding ways to connect and have easier conversations feels like something we can all can get on board with.”
Action: Consider wearing a clear face mask in public and tell your friends, family and colleagues about the positive responses you get. To find out where to buy (or how to make) a clear panel mask and to share campaign resources, visit www.LetsBeClearCampaign.org
The rules put in place to help us all stay safe keep changing; and the setup of shops and public spaces too. This can be unsettling and confusing. Now, imagine the information is also unclear. This is the case for many people in Gloucestershire with a sensory need, a learning disability, autism, dementia, or English as a second language. It is imperative that building layouts, signage, leaflets and online information work well for everyone, considering different access requirements.
We are calling on all businesses, from supermarkets to leisure centres, to hold in mind a wide range of people when communicating. Is everyone included and welcomed into your business or activity; is information easy to understand and shared in different formats, such as easy read or symbol-based information, large print, audio, videos with subtitles or British Sign Language?
This is an extract from a Case Study in Barnwood Trust’s Our Changing World report. Douglas is registered blind and describes some of his experiences during the first lockdown:
“…I have had a few issues keeping socially distanced. One incident was when I was trying to put my prescription in my bag, and someone tried to help me, but I told them they couldn’t touch me or come close and they were rude about it. I have had issues with people walking across me, going the wrong way down one-way systems in shops, shelf-stackers not staying 2-metres away etc…
…I had a positive experience at a chemist’s where the staff were very helpful, they stopped me at the door and told me when it was safe to enter and then took me to the check-out to help me pay…
…I have had hospital appointments cancelled or moved… Communication has been good although I do have to keep requesting that letters are sent in large print for me…
…I feel that the community around me has been very helpful and supportive. I felt on my own at the start but the more people I spoke to, and the more I found out, I realised how much support is out there…”
Action: Assess the accessibility of your business, community group or organisation. Consider who may be affected by the way you share information and how you engage with people. Reach out to local organisations that can help you, if needed. You will find tips, resources and contacts to get you started at www.LetsBeClearCampaign.org
Below is the list of signatories who stand together in support of the Let’s Be Clear campaign. We each pledge to act in solidarity with anyone who would benefit from clear face masks and clearer communication during the pandemic (and beyond).
We ask you, the people of Gloucestershire to join us.
To add your name or to get involved with the Let’s Be Clear campaign get in touch with us via email@example.com
Sally Byng, CEO Barnwood Trust
Sharon Bryant, CEO Gloucestershire Deaf Association
Rob Fountain, CEO Age UK Gloucestershire
Vicci Livingstone-Thompson, CEO Inclusion Gloucestershire
Nicole Hastie, Director of Development and Training, Active Impact
Clare Peterson, Equality and Diversity Manager, University of Gloucestershire
Bishop of Gloucester Rachel Treweek, Diocese of Gloucester
Chris Brown, Chief Executive Officer, Forest Voluntary Action Forum
Rebecca Richardson, Restorative Justice Manager, Restorative Gloucestershire
Helen Lovatt, High Sheriff of Gloucestershire (2020-21)
Cheltenham Welcomes Refugees
Gloucestershire Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers (GARAS)
Cheltenham Borough Homes
GFirst Local Enterprise Partnership
Dr Joanna Bayley, Chief Executive, G DOC
Let’s Be Clear campaign
c/o Barnwood Trust, Overton House, Overton Road,
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL50 3BN
01242 539 935 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Registered charity number: 1162855