Japan’s largest face-mask maker, Unicharm Corp., on Tuesday launched transparent face masks created particularly to enable better communication with deaf people during the coronavirus pandemic.
The washable masks are made of a transparent film that allows the lower part of the face to be seen, thereby making lip-reading possible and allowing the user’s facial expressions to be seen.
Unicharm said the masks were made in response to concerns by people with hearing and speech impediments who have struggled to communicate during the pandemic as typical face masks hinder their ability to read lips and see facial expressions.
The company said it has made just 3,000 of the masks, with each priced at ¥1,480 and only available online.
The mask’s transparent film is designed not to get fogged up by the wearer’s breath.
Such masks could also assist with the reading of facial expressions in customer service industries.
Daisuke Ochi, the executive director of the Tokyo Federation of Deaf, said such masks would be useful in for people in daily situations, such as when asked by convenience store cashiers if they need chopsticks or a plastic bag to go with their purchases.
“When the other person is wearing a mask, you can’t tell if he or she is angry or laughing, making communication difficult,” said Ochi, who is deaf.
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