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The Atrium and Camberley BID shows their support for clear face coverings to help the deaf community

The Atrium and Camberley BID shows their support for clear face coverings to help the deaf community

Shopping centre joins campaign with Collectively Camberley and Town Centre business

The Atrium has teamed up with Collectively Camberley and a deaf awareness charity to distribute clear face coverings in a bid to further support the deaf community while visiting public places during the pandemic.

As the wearing of face coverings became mandatory at indoor shopping centres and stores in England from July 24th, masking of the mouth can make lip reading impossible and hinder the 12 million people in the UK who rely on visual cues and facial expressions to communicate.

After months of not being a mandatory requirement in England, the government made face coverings compulsory on public transport from 15 June. As of 24 July, these rules also apply to all shops, supermarkets, indoor shopping centres, banks, post offices, takeaways and transport hubs in England. I’d probably remove this section as it’s very similar to the above and will help with the flow. The Atrium is working together with Collectively Camberley and the locally-based charity, Chloe and Sophie’s Special Ears Fund (CSSEF) Just4Kids Camberley in handing out clear face coverings to all businesses in Camberley town centre. The goal is to further make Camberley an inclusive and welcoming town and this initiative continues the work that Collectively Camberley and CSSEF started at the beginning of the year by hosting British Sign Language training sessions to over 50 businesses.

Having at least one member of staff inside a business wearing a clear face covering demonstrates support for the town’s deaf community and the work of CSSEF. The organisation is also The Atrium's chosen ‘Charity of the Year’ for 2020, which is working towards making the town centre experience even more enjoyable for everyone.

Jonathan Dowsett, Centre Manager at The Atrium, said: “Making sure that all members of the community have the safest and most comfortable experience while visiting the shopping centre is always of utmost importance.

“We have a number of deaf and hard of hearing customers who visit us - and Camberley town centre - on a regular basis and it’s imperative for businesses and organisations to work together to ensure we adapt and cater to the needs of as many as possible. By continuing to highlight this will help the greater good with navigating these challenging times with more ease.

Jonathan added: “It’s fantastic that The Atrium, along with Collectively Camberley, are able to support businesses in local area by providing a number of face coverings for staff in shops and restaurants, courtesy of our ‘Charity of the Year’, Chloe and Sophie’s Special Ears Fund.”

Jodie MacAndrew, Collectively Camberley Business Improvement (BID) Manager, said: “We are really proud to have been able to support this initiative on behalf of all of the Camberley Town Centre BID Businesses. “This is a really important cause to ensure that our town is inclusive and is raising awareness where it has perhaps been overlooked elsewhere. We believe that Camberley is one of the first towns in England to have implemented this and are really excited to be leading the way. “From the positive feedback we have received so far, we hope that our businesses get fully behind this campaign. We look forward to working towards our future projects to ensure that Camberley is safe, welcoming and inclusive.” Karen Jackson, Charity Founder of Chloe's and Sophie's Special Ears Fund (CSSEF) said: " There aren't enough words to thank Collectively Camberley, The Atrium and all of Camberley's town centre businesses for this! The day my family and I walk into the shops where a member of staff is wearing a clear face covering, it will be very humbling. I'll be making sure I pack my tissues on that occasion.

The clear panel in the face coverings make it possible to lipread, meaning that if someone in a shop is wearing one, they are able to communicate better with a deaf person. I also feel that it will help staff to remember to be Deaf Aware, including things like knowing it's important to get the attention of a deaf person before staff speak to them, as well as using gestures or sign language, writing things down and most importantly being patient and kind.

On a personal level, the difference it will make to us as a family is unmeasurable. I'm a Mum to Chloe aged 14, and Sophie aged 11 who are both deaf. My husband Brian is profoundly deaf too. Shopping has been really difficult as a family at this time, as you can not lipread any of the staff with a normal face covering and they have thick perspex screens making it impossible to hear them. My children have to rely on me to help communicate and their shopping experience is not as enjoyable as it should be.

When I walk into these shops and my family gets served by someone wearing a clear face covering, I get to be Mum or Wife. I get to let my shoulders relax a little, as I don't have to listen extra hard to then relay what was said to my family. I also get to see my Children interact in a shop how they would like.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for continuing to support CSSEF and for doing everything that you can!

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