Nayan facemasks for people with hearing impairments to overcome communication barriers

Face masks are here to stay but worldwide people who are deaf and hard of hearing are facing a major challenge as these masks are putting them at a communication disadvantage. The National Institute for the Empowerment of People with Visual Disabilities (NIEPVD) is producing transparent face masks to help address this.

Face masks could well become the norm for a long while given the widespread impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. But few of them are inclusive. If anything, they heighten the feeling of social isolation for people who are deaf and hard of hearing.

“We completely understand the necessity and need for the mask for prevention against Covid 19”, says Vahishtai J Daboo, Listening and Spoken Language Specialist and certified Auditory Verbal Therapist. She is also the co-founder and trustee of VConnect Foundation, a Mumbai-based support group for parents of children with a hearing impairment.

Eco-friendly face masks by NIEPVD

Back in India, the National Institute for the Empowerment of People with Visual Disabilities (NIEPVD) has recognised this gap and is doing something about it. Their solution is Nayan, transparent face masks that enable people who are deaf and hard of hearing to lip-read. The Dehradun-based institute has produced 50 such masks and distributed them among its staff.

The idea, says Nachiket Rout, Director, NIEPVD, was triggered about feedback from some employees said the masks act as a barrier to understanding others. Nayan masks are made of biopolypropylene. This is an eco-friendly, biodegradable plastic where the material side derived from plants.

The Nayan masks will be sent to the Ali Yavar Jung National Institute of Speech and Hearing Disabilities (AYJNISHD) in Maharashtra for quality testing. Based on the feedback from various stakeholders, the NIEPVD plans to approach the Centre with a request for transparent face masks.

“Quality testing will be crucial”, said Sunil M Mathew, Director, AYJNISHD to The Times of India. “This is important before proceeding with mass scaling since humidity and feelings of suffocation are factors to consider”.

In the meantime, one should all learn tips to become proactive communicators. One method suggested is to use a talk-to-text app. Another is to use a pen and paper to write out what you want to say. To the community, Vahishtai recommends some basic tips.

  • Carry the UDID Card of their disability certificate that certifies that they have a hearing loss.
  • If spoken language is used to communicate, “they need to try and ensure that when they are speaking they are speaking with clarity and speaking louder than normal as when using the mask the voice tends to get muffled”, says Vahishtai.
  • Keep a note pad and pen or a phone handy to use use written text as a means to communicate and not be misunderstood for lack of clear communication.

Source: Newz Hook