With face masks becoming the most important tool against the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic, a number of initiatives have sprung up to address the inaccessibility of masks that are in use or available.
People who have hearing disabilities or deaf cannot participate in conversations without seeing other persons lips or mouth as they speak.
Tiffany Yu, a World Economic Forum Global Shaper, has come up with what is called a windowed mask that she is distributing around the US for free.
The masks aren’t just for people who are deaf or hard of hearing – everyone benefits from being able to see when others smile.
“If they can’t hear and they can’t see your lips moving, then they don’t know that they’re being addressed,” says Tiffany Yu, CEO & Founder of Diversability, in an interview published by WEF.
Yu wants to promote the wearing of masks with see-through windows that allow people to read lips. She has set up #Masks4Disability – an initiative to distribute these masks across the United States for free.
Hundreds of masks have already been given out – and now the idea is catching on in places like Sri Lanka too.
Here she explains how it came about and why more accessible masks benefit everyone: “I started hearing a lot of messages around the fact that masks weren’t accessible. There are inequities presented by current N95 masks or current cloth coverings because many people who are deaf or hard of hearing need to be able to see facial expressions or read lips in their communication.
It made me realize that many large cities like Chicago, San Francisco, and New York have launched mutual aid efforts during COVID-19. But what about the smaller cities where you don’t have access to a mutual aid network? And some people who are disabled may prefer not to have to go out and collect masks.”
Yu has partnered with a sustainable fashion brand in Uganda named Kimuli Fashionability to distribute these windowed facemasks to anyone in the US.