Deaf News: Deafblind woman allegedly verbally abused after sister removes face covering for lipreading
Posted by Letswalo M Community Manager on 28 July 2020 12:40 PM SAST
A deafblind woman was allegedly verbally abused by another rail passenger after her sister briefly removed her face covering to enable her to lipread.
Teenager Saule Pakenaite and her sister Karolina, who has Usher Syndrome, were travelling to Liverpool on 16 July when they were confronted by the individual.In a video shared by the Press Association, the woman can be heard saying “you’re taking the p***, you” to the pair after Saule took off her face covering.
The 16-year-old replied: “Legally she is deafblind. There’s a spectrum. Google it. You don’t know what you’re talking about.” The other passenger goes on to add “deafblind my a***”, before another person intervenes.
Watch the video here.
In a series of exemptions listed on its website, the UK Government says that face coverings do not need to be worn “if you are travelling with or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading to communicate”. The use of face coverings in shops and supermarkets was made mandatory in England on Friday.
Organisations are calling on the Government to do more to increase awareness around those who are exempt from wearing a face covering, with the deafblind charity Sense saying they have received “lots of reports” of disabled people being criticised for not using them.
Richard Kramer, Chief Executive, said: “These experiences cause distress and anxiety, and lead many disabled people to feel they have to stay at home, where they become isolated.
“We welcome the government’s introduction of ‘exemption cards’, but more must be done to raise public awareness of who is exempt from wearing face coverings, so the public are on board and disabled people feel supported.”
Following the incident, Karolina said: “I can no longer stay silent about this as I keep experiencing attacks and hearing similar experiences from others too. It’s taking an effect on my mental health.“ Not enough people are taking this pandemic seriously but this behaviour is never acceptable.
“Please, respect people individually, ask us, listen, discuss and I am always happy to hear ideas for alternative solutions, but harassment, name calling or any type of abuse or aggression will never be OK.”
By Liam O’Dell. Liam is a mildly deaf freelance journalist and campaigner from Bedfordshire. He wears bilateral hearing aids and can be found talking about disability, theatre, politics and more on Twitter and on his website.