Chipping Norton girl left amazed with response from Prime Minister in her appeal to introduce clear face masks across country

A Chipping Norton teenager was thrilled to hear back from the Prime Minister from her appeal letter sent to him to introduce clear face masks across country.

Chipping Norton, teenager Emma Church, holds the letter she received on behalf of the Prime Minister
Chipping Norton, teenager Emma Church, holds the letter she received on behalf of the Prime Minister

Emma Church, who is deaf and lives in Chipping Norton, sent a homemade see-through face mask to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, together with a letter asking him to introduce clear face masks across the country.

The vast majority of face masks currently make lip-reading and the understanding of facial expressions much more difficult, leaving deaf people struggling to understand what is being said to them. Emma uses hearing aids but she also relies on lip-reading to understand what people are saying.

Emma sent Mr Johnson a homemade face mask with a transparent panel along with her letter, in the hope that he would wear it and send a clear message to the public about how important good communication is for deaf people during the pandemic. Her letter was delivered to 10 Downing Street in August.

Emma Church, a Chipping Norton teenager who sent a homemade see-through face mask to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, together with a letter asking him to introduce clear face masks across the country.

Emma’s mum, Liz Church, said: "As time went by, Emma and I never expected to hear from No.10. As soon as I received the letter, I rushed up to show Emma. She had just woken up, but as soon as she saw the letter, I could see the amazement in her face. When she opened the letter, the first words out of her mouth were 'Wow!'

"We read the letter together and there were tears in my eyes when I read, ‘Your attitude is brilliant and your hearing loss neither defines you nor will prevent you from achieving whatever you want in life.’"

The letter was from Chris Jennings of the Direct Communications Unit of the government on behalf of the Prime Minister.

Liz added: "I was really touched with Chris Jennings words. He put himself in Emma’s shoes and saw what life was like for a deaf teen.

Emma Church, a Chipping Norton teenager who sent a homemade see-through face mask to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, together with a letter asking him to introduce clear face masks across the country.

"He even quoted her words back, ‘Hearing loss is not a joke’ and added that deafness was extremely common in our society. He empathised wholeheartedly with the problems face masks were creating."

Once Emma received the letter from Chris Jennings, she took a copy into school and was nominated for a 'Fantastic Friday Award.' The Award said, ‘there are many reasons we find Emma so inspiring: for her resilience, her compassion to others and for taking action when she thinks something needs to change. It ended with, ‘Not many 13 year olds receive a letter from Downing Street.’

Emma still wants to be very much a part of the clear mask campaign.

Liz added: "Now that face masks have to be worn in school corridors and to and from school, face masks are causing Emma real problems. Emma cannot understand what her friends are saying to her when wearing their masks.

"That’s why Emma was asking the Prime Minister if he could make clear masks readily available for all to buy on the high street.

Emma is making her own clear masks. Emma has made some clear masks with fun stickers for some of her teachers. Emma wears different home-made designed clear masks to school each day in order to keep her clear mask campaign going and to show other students she’s deaf.

"Emma is proud to be deaf and she will not let the fact that she is living in a non-communicative world stop her from being a part of this new world."

The National Deaf Children’s Society has called on the government, Public Health England and NHS England to look into making transparent face masks more widely available.

As the use of face coverings bacome compulsory in many public venues, the charity’s call for the widespread availability of transparent face masks has become all the more urgent.

Beccy Forrow, the campaigning and activism lead for the National Deaf Children's Society, said: “Emma’s commitment to the Keep it Clear campaign has been fantastic – and it’s great to see that her efforts have led to a response from Government.

"However, we need to see more action from the Government on this issue, warm words aren’t enough. Until good quality, clear masks can be bought easily on the high street, deaf children like Emma are being failed. Along with better deaf awareness, clear masks are vital to making sure that deaf children aren’t left feeling isolated and alone during this pandemic.”