Transparent Face Masks Help Hearing Impaired Indonesians Communicate

by Matthew Escosia
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By: AC Recio

 

With the number of COVID-19 cases increasing in the country, Indonesia is still trying out different ways to combat the virus. As of April, the government has made it mandatory for people going outside to wear face masks. While this can reduce the spread of the virus, this is a problem for those who rely on lip reading to communicate. In today’s #SEAtizens, we take a look at an Indonesian couple who found a way to keep the hearing impaired safe from the virus while making it easy for them to understand and talk to the people around them.

Faizah Badaruddin and Imam Sarosos are a deaf couple who sewed cushions, bedsheets and curtains at their tailoring workshop in Makassar, Indonesia. Due to the recent pandemic, orders for their products slowed down and their business was left reeling. After doing a bit of research, the couple found a solution, not just to their business problem, but to the problem of other deaf people like them – how to talk to people who wear face masks.

Imam Sarosos and Faizah Badaruddin. Photo from Agency France-Presse.

Badaruddin was born with total hearing loss and experienced firsthand the struggle of communicating with hearing abled people wearing face masks. “I met a person who could hear and wore a mask and they spoke to me but I found it hard to understand what they were talking about,” she said in an interview with Al Jazeera. “Then I thought, maybe I can create masks for myself – I began cutting the materials and putting the transparent part over the mouth area.”

Thus, Badaruddin and Sarosos started to design and sew their own transparent face masks, which allowed the hearing impaired to easily see and interpret the mouth and lip movements of the people they were talking to. The transparent face masks ended up being useful with the current global situation and sold well among customers whether they were hearing impaired or not.

Photo from Agency France-Presse.

“They were selling very well, and more orders came. So far I have sold over 200 masks,” said Badaruddin in an interview with SBS News. Badaruddin and her husband now make up to 20 masks a day, which they ship to customers all over Indonesia.

Similar masks are also being designed and created around the world with the goal of making communication easier, not just for deaf people, but for the hearing abled as well. Brands like ClearMask and Safe’N’Clear are among the first to make these available with their products mostly catered towards medical professionals, online tutorials like the ones that Badaruddin and Sarosos have watched have become viral among deaf communities around the world, and the more savvy netizens caught wind of the buzz around transparent face masks and started advocating for their use in consideration for the hearing impaired.

Photo from Agency France-Presse.

With over 1 billion individuals with hearing loss all over the world, it’s no surprise that transparent face masks have become as popular as they are. And although the conversation around it is just beginning, it might just be one of the first steps we take in making an inclusive world possible.

 

SEA Wave magazine’s #SEAtizens initiative is a series of inspiring stories of people in Southeast Asia who champion the human spirit by demonstrating courage, ingenuity, generosity, and selflessness amidst the current crisis.

 

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