Author: Tony Trott
I have always been the type of person who is cautious and avoids anything that might adversely impact my health. I have some scars to prove my lack of agility and tendency to fall. Some may label me as a worrier, but for me it is necessary to have a comfort zone. Don’t get me wrong, I am willing to travel to faraway places like Japan and Comic-Con in San Diego, ride my scooter in the bike lanes in New York City, and cook, garden, and perform other activities around the house. I try not to let my disability get in the way of what I like to do, understanding that some activities are not possible because of my physical limitations.
The coronavirus has created a different way of living for everyone. We are staying at home more, not traveling, and going out only when it is necessary. As more things open there will be opportunities to do more, but I’m likely to stick with the more cautious approach. Unfortunately, my safety- first attitude in this “new normal” is difficult. My disability, Friedreich’s Ataxia, -significantly impacts my hearing. I have a cochlear implant and that helps somewhat, but to fully understand and engage in a conversation, I need to see the face of the person I am talking to you. Seeing their lips move is critical to discern what they are saying. I’m not saying it is perfect, but it is the best option for me.
Masking to be safe during the coronavirus obviously impacts my ability to see lips. It creates a situation where I know I need to wear a mask to protect others and others need to wear a mask to protect me. That translates to going out into an environment where I will have great difficulty understanding what others are saying. For instance, I finally ventured out to get a haircut. The hairdresser was talking to me and asking questions, but I did not understand what he was saying because we both had masks on. I still got a haircut, and it came out great after growing for so many months, but it was frustrating to not be able to answer his questions or converse.
Despite the frustration of not being able see lips, I understand the risks involved in not wearing masks. My wife has a trach and limited lung function. Therefore, I want to be extremely careful not only for myself, but also to protect her. There is no way that I’m going to go out on the streets or elsewhere without a mask. I might have to change up my routine of going to certain places alone. But even if I’m with someone else, that person, such as my wife, will also have a mask on. We may have to become creative by texting each other when we are out or having a discussion before we go somewhere so we don’t have to rely on speaking to each other.
Many people might find this to be incredibly discouraging and opt to stay at home. I plan to stick with staying at home unless something is essential or at some point go out where it is safe to do something different. I’m not going to let the inability to converse stop me. I will continue to put safety first. My mask is vital protection and the constrictions associated with wearing one is less heartache than getting sick or exposing anybody else, especially my wife to this deadly virus.
Special note: As I write this I keep thinking about the masks some people have that have a clear area around the mouth so that the lips are visible and this is especially for people reliant on seeing the speakers mouth move. But the vast majority of masks are opaque!