Understanding and adhering to the guidelines on mask wearing and social distancing has been difficult enough for the majority of us to navigate. However, Grace Davies-Friend, a 20-year-old Customer Assistant at Shrewsbury’s Tesco Extra, has found it harder than most.
She opens up about the challenges she has faced communicating with customers over lockdown and gives advice on how we can all help those with similar conditions to overcome the pressures of the pandemic.
Hard of hearing, Grace relies heavily on lip reading when assisting customers, so when the new rules around mask wearing came into force within shops, it became increasingly difficult for her to understand customers, which left her feeling isolated.
Helping to raise awareness of the challenges many individuals in a similar position are experiencing, Grace has been helping to educate her Tesco colleagues and customers on how they can support people who may be hard of hearing, who might be feeling frustrated by the current situation.
Grace’s top-line advice is for people to be patient and respectful when communicating with someone who may have hearing loss.
She said: “I think we all just need to be a little kinder and patient with everyone we meet, especially in the world we now live in, it’s not easy for anyone.”
Grace has been learning British Sign Language for 2 years and is a committee member of the Shropshire Deaf Children’s Society. Grace has also become a peer mentor for a younger girl who also has hearing loss. She mentions how despite the challenges faced, due to Coronavirus, it has also given her a new appreciation for the language and encouraged herself and others to progress, learning more each day.
After sharing a Facebook video online, Grace was overjoyed to have inspired her Tesco colleagues to learn how to sign, who now sign ‘Good Morning’ to her each day. Not only has this way of greeting impacted positively upon Grace and her experiences at work, but other Tesco customers too who use BSL as their first language.
Thankful for the Tesco team’s encouragement, Grace said her colleagues listen closely to her challenges and adjust their behaviours accordingly to help, which makes a huge difference to her day-to-day. Grace said: “I don’t think I could ask for a better place to work with a better group of colleagues. Absolutely everyone in my store has been so supportive, and willing to be educated on sign language.”
Grace also has a blog called Hearing Loss – Deaf Gain, where she opens up about her experiences of being deaf. Talking about her inspiration behind the name of the blog, she said: “everyone talks about what you lose when you lose your hearing, but no one ever talks about what you gain.” Grace is determined to continue breaking down barriers and stereotypes, spreading deaf awareness and educating others.
To find out more about Grace’s journey, visit: https://gdaviesfriend.wixsite.com/website/post/deaf-identity