Hear Québec aims to make Montreal more accessible for those who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Members of the non-profit group stood outside city hall and McGill university campus Tuesday morning handing out face masks with a clear, see-through window.
“The more people are aware of what our needs are, the more people are willing to accommodate,” executive director Heidy Wager said.
Members plan on distributing more than 500 masks to the public according to Wager.
“Our goal is to raise awareness about the importance of accessibility for the hard of hearing community in Montreal,” Wager said.
The organization timed the handout with Giving Tuesday. The slogan for the event was “Giving the gift of accessibility.”
Giving Tuesday is an annual event that aims to encourage people to donate and give time ahead of the festive shopping season.
Wager said that while much of the public is aware of the need for physical accessibility, such as ramps and reserved parking, hearing impairment is an invisible disability.
The pandemic and mask mandates make it impossible to read lips, and that has made life more difficult for those with hearing loss.
“Going into a store with people wearing cloth masks makes things difficult,” said Tahsin Mohammad, a cochlear pmplant user and Hear Québec member.
“This barrier compounds the already difficult hearing environment of the noisy store. The use of masks with transparent windows is simple and helps me lipread. Clear masks are very accessible for the hard of hearing.”
After two failed attempts to communicate with city officials, the organization spoke with an executive committee member, Josefina Blanco, responsible for diversity social inclusion, homelessness and universal accessibility.
“The city of Montréal, Mayor Valérie Plante and myself are committed to working with our partners to improve our universal accessibility practices and to meet the needs of the hearing impaired community. I am also very thankful for the accessible mask,” Blanco said.
The city and the organization have scheduled a meeting in the new year.
Wager said the city will be partnering with Hear Québec on future ways to raise awareness.
“It’s all about making everyone feel included and being a part of what is happening,” Wager said.
“Whether it is buying groceries, attending a movie or going to a show — it’s just making sure that everyone is included and not isolated.”