Why are clear facemasks so important?
They're facemasks with a clear plastic insert instead of fabric obscuring your mouth. But why are they so important?
Although facemasks have become essential commodity in the time of COVID-19, many of us are probably not familiar with “vision facemasks” or more commonly, “clear facemasks”, a type of facemask being adopted by a growing number of people especially within communities who are hard of hearing.
This article was originally published in August 2020 and has since been updated.
What is a vision facemask?
These facemasks are fashioned the same as a traditional face mask, with one exception: the mouth is visible through a clear, protective screen. It’s a type of mask that’s gaining popularity especially in the UK, where 12 million people are deaf or have hearing loss. Lip reading, facial expression recognition and movement are key aids that assist people who have hearing difficulties to understand others’ speech and communication. The key feature of a transparent window is especially helpful for those who struggle with hard-of-hearing disabilities or deafness allowing a clear view to read words.
Reading lip patterns helps hearing loss individuals understand more effectively, says Roger Wicks, director of campaigns and policy at Action on Hearing Loss, adding that traditional face masks can mitigate this effectiveness, because “words which sound similar but have different meanings become very difficult to distinguish and face coverings are a big barrier to this.”
With New Zealand still having mandatory face coverings in some settings, concerns for those who find it difficult to wear a traditional face mask are arising as well, leading to calls for better recognition of disabled communities and their inclusion within the government’s COVID safety response strategy.
Photo Source: The Guardian/Deaf Action
Many UK charities such as Deaf Action are rallying for the UK government to commission vision facemasks, or provide further mask exemptions to avoid further isolating disability communities.
"Wearing face masks results in deaf people being cut off from communication in everyday life” says Phillip Gerrad, CEO of Deaf Action. The amount of hearing-challenged and disabled individuals show that vision masks are crucial “not only in a care setting, but within the wider community” too.
Consider a clear face mask, even if you're not deaf or working with those hard of hearing.
Even those who don’t have hearing difficulties may find it challenging to be unable to see full facial view when communicating. You may have noticed that while wearing a facemask, your coffee order might seem a little harder to get across, or your sentences need to be repeated more often to be understood. This is because visual cues, expression and body language are key forms of human communication - 93% of communication is in fact, non verbal.
The traditional face mask isn't accessible for everyone, and many are seeking an alternative that can help communication barriers while still maintaining responsible protective measures. Clear face masks are an extremely helpful type of facemask that ensures the care of all people’s wellbeing, as well as reducing the already present stigma and isolation of disabled communities. Singing teachers, practicing clinicians, and those wanting to make their daily errands in a mask more easy all use clear masks.