Taiwan develops mask with transparent windows to improve communication

Medical mask manufacturer Taiwan Champ Manufacturing will donate 20,000 newly-developed transparent masks to social welfare organizations, after a joint effort between government and private sector groups to develop a mask to improve communication with the people who are deaf or hard of hearing, and it may bring benefits to anyone who appreciates a smile.

Hsieh Li-fang (謝莉芳), chairperson of the Dandelion Hearing and Language Association (DHLA), said that people with hearing impairments rely on visual cues, facial expressions, and lip reading when communicating. When masks are worn, these visual cues are missing. Hsieh cited the example of deaf or hard of hearing college students who had experienced difficulties when classes were switched to online. Some teachers did not show their faces at all, while others wore masks. This created impediments for some students.

The DHLA, with the assistance of Legislative Yuan member Liu, Chien-Kuo (劉建國), approached the Industrial Development Bureau. A collaboration between the bureau, Taiwan Textile Research Institute, and Taiwan Champ Manufacturing led to development of the masks.

Taiwan Champ Manufacturing donated some of the first masks produced to the National Performing Arts Center, National Theater and Concert Hall (NTCH), Thursday, January 22.

NTCH staff found that wearing masks inhibited communication with the people who have hearing impairments, and other people with disabilities. The NTCH has been active in promoting “inclusive theater” in recent years.

NTCH staff using transparent masks. Picture: NTCH.

NTCH director Liu Yiru (劉怡汝) said that the current epidemic has changed people’s lifestyles. Due to Taiwan’s success in epidemic prevention, theaters have be able to operate normally. However, front desk staff found that wearing masks inhibited communication with some groups.

NTCH will issue the masks to front desk staff, and theater guides.

The new masks are manufactured with non-woven fabric and feature a transparent window that makes the mouth and lips visible. The clear plastic is treated with a coating to prevent fogging.

The new masks will also be donated to the Dandelion Hearing and Language Association, the Children Charity Association, Chiayi City Education Department, Taipei School for the Hearing Impaired, the Taiwanese Association of Sign Language Interpreters and the Taoyuan City Sound Shine Association.

The masks are expected to be available for purchase in pharmacies by April, at a price between NT$8 and NT$13, according to Taiwan Champ Manufacturing.

The masks might also be adopted by the service industry to allow for more personal interactions with customers, the company said back in August, when the product was still under development.

From SARS Diary, by Mark Perrault, 2003.
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