Seychelles: Seychellois Women Produce Transparent Face Mask to Help Hearing-Impaired Community During Covid

Two Seychellois women have produced a transparent face mask for Seychelles' hearing-impaired community to facilitate the combination of lip reading and sign language.

The chairperson of the Association of People with Hearing Impairment (APHI), Anita Gardner, told SNA that as soon as the news came out that the use of face masks on public transport is mandatory, the association knew this would be a major problem for the deaf community as well as people who work with them.

"Deaf people use sign language to communicate and learn. Sign language is a language which comprises mainly of hand forms, body movements and facial expressions. Deaf people read lips, thus wearing a solid cloth face mask cuts off some important aspects of sign language hence deaf people are not able to gain full access to information or be able to express themselves fully," said Gardner.

Gardner reached out to Samia Leon, who sews during her spare time, to see if she could design a transparent mask for deaf people.

"Together we bought materials to design see-through masks to adapt to sign language users. We are encouraging all deaf persons to buy one and also give their feedback," said Gardner.

There are 1,000 hearing-impaired persons in Seychelles and they rely heavily on the movement of lips to understand what is being said. It is for this reason that the mask designed is fitted with a clear window over the mouth.

Leon, a young woman with a hearing impairment, said that before coming up with the current, most comfortable design, they looked at many models already being sewn on the internet and recreated several.

Despite the current design meeting the aim of the product, the two women acknowledged that there is a small disadvantage to using a transparent face mask.

"It cannot be worn for long periods of time because of humidity. The mask mists up as plastic is used for the transparent component of the mask," said Gardner.

Due to this problem, Leon said that she is working on improving the design of the mask.

Wearing a mask in Seychelles, a group of 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean, is mandatory on public transportation -- buses, ferries and planes - and in some government offices and certain events.

"This will affect deaf people communication-wise. We are supporting the department of health during the COVID-19 press conferences and we had to design a mask that we could use where the interpreter is not only protected but can also relay the message that she is interpreting so that deaf people can have access to information. I wish to thank Samia for making the masks," said Gardner.

At the moment, Gardner is distributing these masks at the school for the hearing impaired and to interested persons. It is also available at the Association of People with Hearing Impairment, located at the former maritime school in the central district of Mont Fleuri.

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