Talladega dentist Dr. Daniel Piccard using special mask to communicate with deaf patients

Talladega dentist Dr. Daniel Piccard and his staff have started using specially designed masks to communicate with their deaf patients. 

TALLADEGA -- It seems like such a simple thing, but often times the best ideas seem obvious once someone has thought of them.

Dr. Daniel Piccard has had a dental practice in Talladega for some time and has treated many deaf patients over the years. He has a hygienist, Sandra Strickland, who can sign, but that is not always a good option.

Although most people in Talladega’s deaf community can lip read, lip reading is not an option when a dentist is masked and leaning over the patient.

The solution: a specially designed mask with a transparent window in the middle that provides the required protection for the dentist and his staff while still allowing the patient to see their mouths and read their lips.

“It was actually my assistant, Traci Haynes’, idea,” Piccard said. “She looked for them, hunted them down and ordered them. We’ve been using them for about two months now. It’s such a simple idea.”

Judith Gilliam, one of Piccard’s deaf patients, was impressed and wrote a letter to The Daily Home about the new masks.

“(It’s) not often we praise people when they deserve it,” she wrote. “Local dentist Dr. Piccard went out of his way, along with his assistant, and ordered a new technology mask.

“When it was my time, they usually had to remove their masks so I could lip read without sound. No more. They got (a) special order only to accommodate those who could lip read. What an inspiration. Very thoughtful of their patients.”

Dr. John Mascia, president of the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind, said this is the kind of action that makes Talladega a special place.

“It demonstrates that is very easy, most of the time, for people to make accommodations for people with disabilities, especially those who are deaf or blind,” Mascia said. “Talladega and the people here have a very special sensitivity because of the diversity offered by the schools for the deaf and blind. People are more than willing to make accommodations, and that’s a great thing.

“People here are comfortable with blind and deaf people and will think of ways to accommodate them, like what Dr. Piccard is done. And that is to be applauded.”