Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Masks For All 2.0: Masks for Communication, Lip Reading, and Eye Protection

Masks For All...The Quest Continues

My quest to improve accessibility to masks continues. Back in March, I posted a video and created a blog post that you can find here about masks that tie around the head rather than anchor around the ears. Some people with craniofacial differences do not have ears, or like me, they wear hearing aids that take up real estate where the mask would fasten. Through the use of masks that tie to the head, an ear saver, or headband to bypass the ears, we discovered that we could overcome anatomical issues so that masks can fasten to the head. Now, as we head back to school or into work, we must move to the next level of masking up, focusing our attention on improving communication for those that lip read and keeping eyes safe. 

Lip-Reading Masks

Teachers will be back in classrooms with their students. People will be back in the office a few days of the week. All of us will be the need to wear a mask. Many people that are hard of hearing or deaf depend on lip reading to understand another person. In the video above, I tested out a mask with a clear plastic hole around the mouth for easy viewing of the lips, only to find that the clear plastic easily fogs up. After posting this video to my personal Facebook account with an inquiry about what to do, many responded with great answers. Some shared that a drop of dish soap would help, others said I would need to go to the scuba store to buy defogger used for scuba goggles, other said try some Rain-X. All of these were great suggestions and I did want to try all of them, but cost and toxicity forced me to try the dish soap first. I decided to grab a tiny bit of liquid soap, a tissue, and smear it across the inside of the clear plastic. It worked! The mask did not fog up, and my lips could easily be seen moving without the mask fogging up. Check out the video below to see the positive results. (I moved the camera around a bit so you can see the mask from all angles.)


Face Shields To Protect Eyes

Face shields are great, but I had lots of questions. Will they protect others from contracting COVID-19 from the nose and mouth? Will they protect your eyes?  I saw people wearing them, and thought maybe this could be a good solution for the communication barrier issue, but quickly concluded that there was not enough coverage around the mouth and nose. Water vapor, released from the mouth and nose, will get into the air on all four sides of the face shield. However, the shield is great for eye protection, preventing COVID-19-laced droplets from entering your eyes. If you have trouble blinking, or an inability to close your eyes, I would definitely consider either some protective eyewear or a face shield. 

All of that said, please let me repeat, the face shield does not provide adequate coverage for the mouth and nose. Please follow the Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization recommendations for proper coverage of the mouth and nose on this great website. Around your mouth and nose, your best bet for protection is a mask with a clear plastic front. Make sure the fabric around it is tight around the face. 

You can watch my short video demonstrating eye shields below.

Where Do I Purchase A Clear Front Face Mask or Face Shield? 

In conclusion, please stay safe and follow the recommended guidelines put forth by the CDC and WHO. If you are out in public for long periods of time, I would highly recommend the use of a mask with a clear plastic window. Masks like this one will even benefit those that are able to hear, as many people lip read without even realizing it! Clear masks can be purchased from a variety of vendors. The one I demonstrated in the video is from Chic Me. Sadly, these did not fasten with ties around the head. They anchor to the ears. Another great place to purchase is from Rafi Nova, which has kids' sized masks. Rafi Nova sells masks that tie around the head or fasten around the ears. 

Face shields are important, too, especially if your child has any kind of differences around their eyes. I really love the Instashield demonstrated in the second video. It's lightweight, attaches to your favorite ball cap, and is made in the United States. Your kids will love it because they can wear their favorite team's hat while staying safe. 

We have to do whatever it takes to stay safe. I hope these tips help as we move forward into the fall and winter months.  

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