Arkansas Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities

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Communicate Clearly

Communicate Clearly

Mask for the DD Community

We wear masks to care for each other.

The GCDD Arkansas continues to search for ways to support the disability community during the pandemic. We have some face masks available, at no charge, which carry a message to address a specific communications barrier in our community.

We became aware of a communication barrier being experienced by some people who are deaf or hard of hearing, due to increased mask wearing by the general public and professional service providers. This emerging communication barrier was:

  • not being able to see visual facial cues that typically supplement an understanding of spoken communication

Council staff began to search for a method to combat this barrier. We found that a mask with an educational, supportive message could help.

Not all deaf and hard of hearing people prefer to communicate - or receive communications - in the same way. Some might prefer spoken communication, some might prefer sign language, some might prefer written communication, and some may use a combination of all of these. People who use any of these modes of communication may also rely on additional visual information from facial cues, lipreading, facial expressions, and body language. Keep in mind that deaf and hard of hearing people who are part of the Deaf community may have certain cultural and etiquette differences that appear while communicating.

When it is possible that you will be communicating with a person who is deaf or a person who is hard of hearing, please consider using clear face shields, clear masks or cloth masks with a clear plastic panel. This can help reduce a communication barrier for those individuals who may rely on visual cues to supplement their understanding of conversations or other spoken communication.

We understand that not all people who are deaf or hard of hearing utilize lipreading, and lipreading is most often used as a supplement to the use of residual hearing, amplification, or other assistive listening technology. We received input from several individuals who are hard of hearing and do rely on lipreading and other facial cues to deepen their understanding of spoken communications.

One of these individuals came up with a mask to help her clearly communicate her needs to others – the mask she created said “I read lips. Masks make it harder. Please be patient.” She had a few printed for her own use. She was happy to share this communication tool with everyone since it worked for her. The Arkansas Council has produced some masks that share her message. If you or someone you know is deaf or hard of hearing and would like a free mask to share this message, please use the link below and email Council staff your request. Masks will be sent via the United States Postal Service or FedEx delivery.


Please indicate how many masks you are requesting, and send the request by email to 

These are triple-layer cloth masks with adjustable ear loops.

Other Helpful Messages

We realize that there may be people in the IDD community who have encountered other barriers due to COVID-19 and/or masking or face coverings. GCDDAR is considering other messages that may be helpful on a mask.

One idea for someone with sensory needs, could be a mask message like "I need space. Ask before you touch. Please be patient."   

Another idea is for people who use sign language, a mask with a message like "I speak ASL. If you don't, please write a note."

If you have ideas for mask messages, please email the staff at with your ideas. Thank you.


This page links to PDF files. Use this link to download Adobe Reader if needed.