Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

The importance of making face masks more accessible

This time last year, wearing a face mask to go to the shop would have made you stand out like a sore thumb. However, now it is not only the norm but also required by law. This is likely to stay around for a while, so it is essential that there are options available to everyone. Since there is so much diversity in people and their needs, it should not be the case of one mask fits all.

It is important to remember that not everyone is required to wear a mask. The most common exemptions include children under 11, those with certain disabilities or if wearing a mask causes distress. Even if a person is not exempt, there may be a more accessible mask that would be of benefit to them. All the regulations require is that people wear face coverings which means there is room for negotiation in order to suit the needs of each individual.

Clear masks would help everyone have more meaningful conversations

Masks can be made more accessible in a number of ways. The most popular example of this can be found in masks with a clear panel. This allows those who are deaf or hard of hearing to lip read and hence not lose out on vital communication. It also enables them to see facial expressions – something which is lost completely by wearing a mask as you’ll know if you’ve awkwardly tried to smile at someone in the street and then realised that they can’t, in fact, see what you’re doing.

There’s a lot of information online about how to make a mask with a clear panel for the mouth or where you can buy one from. For those making masks at home, this is the perfect opportunity to make something that can be accessible to those who struggle with hearing.

The problem is, however, that many people wouldn’t even think about wearing a mask like this unless they are in close contact with someone who is deaf/hard of hearing. People are also discouraged as these masks are usually more expensive. This means that when deaf people go out, they are very rarely able to rely on lip-reading as most people do not wear masks suited for this. That being said, not being able to see facial expressions is something that has affected us all and so clear masks would help everyone have more meaningful conversations.

The standard face masks we are now used to seeing do not suit everyone’s needs

Another example of an accessible face mask was designed by Sunnie Delilah. She created a longer mask which is suited for people with long beards. Although this isn’t a medical condition in any way, it means that the beard is able to be protected from droplets. The mask is also adapted to be put over turbans, making it very popular in the Sikh community. She started this project by making a mask for her father-in-law but since then it has attracted lots of interest and she has turned it into a side hustle.

The pandemic has led to many realisations. One of these is that the standard face masks we are now used to seeing do not suit everyone’s needs. As face masks become an integral part of everyday life and our interactions with each other, more should be done to ensure that our society is as inclusive and safe as possible for however long we need to wear masks for.

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