How Umoja tailors are helping the deaf with see-through masks – VIDEO
While face masks have untold benefits, they also have a downside: isolating the hearing impaired community.
Most get communication through lip-reading. But every cloud has a silver lining.
But Sheila Lutta, a special needs rights advocate, has designed masks with transparent cut-outs on the mouth, which helps the deaf communicate through lip-reading.
Lutta has partnered with the Kenya Christian School for the Deaf based in Umaja, Eastlands, to mass-produce the masks which sell at Sh150.
She says that many individuals with autism have sensory sensitivities irritated by traditional masks and rely on visual cues like a smile or a frown for communication.
The mask has a transparent opening in the mouth area that allows one to see the lips while communicating.
“The special mask was innovated to ensure the deaf could easily communicate at a time when face masks in public spaces were mandatory. It is very important for the mouth to be seen at least to improve on the communication as the deaf are also taught to lip-read,” she said.
According to Chris Okello of the Kenya Christian School for the Deaf, they give a certain percentage of the money they make from the masks to the volunteers in the school.
“We give them Sh70 a piece, the more they produce, the more they can earn. Some of them are even graduates but since they cannot land a job anywhere they opted to go and sell sweets. We offered something that can sustain them,” Said Okello.
Lutta said that the first design was not good and it was clouding and eventually they came out with a new design that has enough ventilation and prevents clouding.