Transparent face masks and shields are expensive compared to their classic counterparts, but could prove to be a boon for the deaf and hard of hearing struggling to communicate in the coronavirus era.
The concept has started to support itself, not least through YouTube tutorials or similar things like the American football trainer Nic Saban, who has set himself the goal of carrying his box.
Other supporters include French Secretary of State for People with Disabilities Sophie Cluzel, who wore a mask with a clear section to speak in Parliament, and a sign language interpreter at a hospital in Portsmouth, in the south of England.
As Cluzel pointed out, the transparent window makes communication easier by allowing lip reading and facial expressions to be shown.
"Lip reading is a plus for me," says Vivien Laplane, née Taube and author of the French blog "Appendre à écouter" (learn to listen).
"You can imagine – or you may not – that it is more difficult with masks" to understand others and to make oneself understood.
A deaf Indonesian couple who work as tailors on the island of Sulawesi have been making and selling transparent masks since April.
Without her, "it is impossible for a lip-reading deaf person to understand what others are saying," says Faizah Badaruddin, who, along with her husband, makes about two dozen a day.
Such efforts promote communication during the COVID-19 pandemic, not least for the deaf and hard of hearing, which number 70 million people worldwide, according to the World Association of the Deaf.
The French Association of Speech Therapists says classic face masks mean "patients are deprived of the main source of the oral message: the mouth and facial expressions".
The teachers say that they too like the transparent model.
Says Rory Burnham Pickett, a professor in Sapporo, Northern Japan, "I know it is frustrating that my students can't see my mouth or facial expressions. I made my own clear mask because they're hard to find."
Governments are proactive and issue orders.
According to local media, the Quebec authorities have ordered 100,000 for distribution through the healthcare network in the Canadian province.
The APDA association of the hard of hearing in the province ordered 100,000 washable transparent masks through the local textile company Madolaine.
"Sales are going quickly," says association director Marie-Helene Tremblay.
In the United States, the private American medical company ClearMask LLC announced on Tuesday that it had received approval from the Food and Drug Administration for a fully transparent surgical mask for use in hospitals and clinics, but also in schools, retail and hospitality industries Has.
The Baltimore-based form was already producing non-surgical versions.
Masks for everyone
Anissa Mekrabech, a 31-year-old French deaf woman, decided to create her own transparent prototype after discovering communication was difficult when she visited the local pharmacy with a standard mask.
She co-founded ASA Initia, based in Toulouse, in collaboration with the French Association of the Paralyzed to develop and sell an "inclusive mask".
The mask, which was the first to be approved by the French authorities, has received 20,000 orders so far.
A second French variant, the "Smile Mask" from Odiora, a Lyon-based company, is now also coming onto the market, and two more can expect approval soon, according to the French government.
Stephane Lenoir, who coordinates a collective of disabled people's associations in France, applauds what he sees as progress, but feels obliged to highlight the problems of the general availability and cost of such masks.
Unit costs for the French masks range from 10.90 to 15 euros (12.80 to 17.60 US dollars), 10.99 US dollars for those in Quebec, while ClearMask offers a package of 24 for 67 US dollars .
According to Burnham Pickett, the transparent masks found in Japan "come from the United States and are expensive".
In France, the government is considering whether to offer a subsidy or to award public contracts at the behest of the associations.
For Cluzel, "promoting transparent masks will improve production and reduce manufacturing costs and thus prices".
For Tremblay, the need is clear: "We have to democratize the wearing of transparent masks."
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© 2020 AFP
Expensive but transparent masks are a boon for the hard of hearing (2020, 23 August)
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