Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Masks For All: Functional, Accessible, and Fun

Editor's Note: Previous blog posts about accessible masks for people in the craniofacial community can be found here and here. I hope this information is helpful in finding the right fit for you.

Masks are now a part of our lives amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Experts say they could be here to stay through mid-2022.  In addition to keeping us safe from COVID-19, they also reduce transmission of the flu, too. For those in the craniofacial community, masks could be an effective tool for those of us that are medically complex and need that extra layer of protection. Unfortunately, masks are not one size fits all. Accessibility and comfort for those with craniofacial conditions varies from body to body. What are we to do? 

After weeks of crowdsourcing, purchasing, and testing, I have some answers that will benefit us. This writer will go to the ends of the Earth to find a mask that is the least disruptive to my compromised cabeza, and that avoids my tiny ears complete with tiny hearing aids. 

Mandala Scrubs Masks

Leader in the clubhouse for me has been Mandala Scrubs Adjustable Head Loop Mask. Light weight, comfortable, and easily comes on and off the head. It avoids anchoring on the neck and the ears which allows me to comfortably keep my hearing aids in place, and wear my now signature, big, fancy earrings again. The fit is the best yet, with an adjustable nose ridge to create a solid seal that doesn’t push the air out and up into my glasses. Masks come in adult and child/petite sizes. The best fit for me is the petite. The mask does not yank on my ears and pull my arthritic jaw forwards and down. They have a PM2.5 filter pocket, too. Wonderful stuff and worth every cent of the $9.99. Another company that does this style of mask well is Proper Cloth. They have multiple size options, but are a bit on the pricey side at $25. You do get what you pay for, and the quality appears exceptional. Thank you to a designer friend who shared these modern stylish masks with me. 

Proper Cloth Mask

In second place, the Athleta Activate masks. Yes, these are of the ear loop variety, but we will forgive them for it, because each three pack comes with a black band with two hooks that you can wrap around the ear loops, and then place behind the head or in my case above my messy bun. I even played a full singles tennis match in these athletic masks and won!  Athleta masks come in adult and kids sizes. The fabric is spandex, yoga pants material. Very comfortable, and flexible. Buy a three-pack in the adult size for $30 or just $25 for the kids size. The site has 20% discounts galore. 
Athleta Mask with Band

After a frustratingly long week in the library (my day job) at the beginning of the month, I reached out to Facebook for that aforementioned crowdsourcing. People came out in droves after I told my tale of woe that cold night. Thank you to all who commented on that post. Sing it with me, you are the “wind beneath my wings.”
Direct from the hive mind, I share with you these great tips. First things first, this amazing contraption from Amazon takes the ears out of the equation completely. The mask extender is made of flexible plastic meant to be worn at the back of the head. You can purchase 5 of them for $7.99. These are great to have on hand if you have a medical appointment or a hospital visit. Many medical offices and hospitals require that you wear their mask while in the building. I keep one of these in my backpack at all times. 
Flexible Mask Extender

If you like headbands, grab one of these with two buttons to anchor the mask in place. They cost about $11. 
Headband with Button Anchor

The “sew awesome” among us may like this pattern developed by Scraptastic Patchwork. Former board member, and CCA Mom, Paula Guzzo, found this crafty couple for us. Scraptastic Patchwork shows us how to make accessible masks from upcycled fabric. People with beards, arthritis, craniofacial conditions, and more are rejoicing over their work. The two videos posted by Scraptastic Patchwork, and the patterns for these masks, can be found on Youtube. Click here and here to see their process and progress in creating masks for all bodies. This is universal design, folks!

I hope you enjoyed this post about mask options for all bodies. One of the above options should help alleviate the additional pressure on the head, neck, and ears that can be extraordinarily aggravating for those of us with a number of traumatic surgeries to the head, neck, and upper body under our belt. My hope is that you find one that feels best for you and your body

Best of luck. Stay safe, protect others, and spread compassion not germs!

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