Japan’s largest face-mask maker, Unicharm, has just launched transparent face masks to enable better communication for people with auditory disabilities.
The washable masks are made of a transparent film, like a window for the lower part of the face to be seen, thereby making lip-reading possible and allowing users’ facial expressions to be observed.
Unicharm said they produced the masks because people with hearing and speech disabilities are struggling to communicate during the COVID-19 pandemic as typical face masks prevent lip-reading and facial expression cues.
The company said it has made just 3,000 of the masks, with each priced at ¥1,480 and only available online.
The mask’s transparent film is designed not to fog up.
These masks could also assist with the reading of facial expressions in customer service industries.
Daisuke Ochi, the executive director of the Tokyo Federation of Deaf, said such masks would be useful for people in daily situations, such as when asked by convenience store cashiers if they need chopsticks or a plastic bag to go with their purchases.
“When the other person is wearing a mask, you can’t tell if he or she is angry or laughing, making communication difficult,” said Ochi, who is deaf.