Masks for aged, speech-and-hearing impaired launched in Imphal

"Since we mostly communicate through sign language and movement of our lips, it had been really difficult to wear a face masks."

With an aim to support the protocol to avoid the spread of COVID-19, half transparent face masks for the aged and speech-and-hearing impaired were launched on Thursday by a Civil Voluntary Organisation (CVO) in Imphal. The CVO Ya-all claimed that such mask is being introduced for the first time in the entire Northeast states.

“If the newly designed half transparent masks were provided during the beginning of the lockdown, it would have been more convenient for the speech-and-hearing impaired in their effort to communicate with others while preventing the spread of coronavirus infection,” said the general secretary of Deaf Welfare Organization Manipur (DWOM), M Chiranjit Meitei during an interaction at Wangkhei, Imphal East.

It may be mentioned that Chiranjit himself is suffering from hearing impairment since the age of eight but he can speak. His spoke to Imphal Free Press (IFP) with the help of a speech instructor Keshtrimayum Rojita Devi who works at Bishnupur district hospital.

Responding to IFP, Chiranjit said, “We are also a part of the society and have to follow the guidelines and protocols introduced by the government in order to avoid spread of COVID-19. We also wear face masks as preventive measures. Since we mostly communicate through sign language and movement of our lips, it had been really difficult to wear a face masks. The newly designed half transparent face masks will help us reduce communication barrier unlike before.” He said nearly 100 members are registered in DWOM and most of the members are completely hearing and speech impaired since birth.

Moinam Babul, who is also speech and hearing impaired and a barber by profession, said that the masks needed some modification, as the strings were not comfortable enough while using hearing aid. “If the strings are modified with elastic strings and the same could be ties around the head not behind ears, then it would be more comfortable”, he added.

“While using the half transparent face mask, we faces some difficulty in breathing when it is uses for hours, but it is far better than the usual face mask due to its transparent feature”, said Babul.

Instructor for hearing impairment, Rojita said, “While teaching the students, the newly designed half transparent face masks will be more effective. The speech and hearing impaired students focus on body language, sign language including lips reading. If one component is missed then the students finds it hard to communicate”, she added.

Designer of the mask, Jocelyn Akoijam who is also co-founder of Ya_All told IFP that the masks were inspired by a news article that such masks were manufactured in Tamil Nadu. The same masks can also be used by aged persons with speech and hearing difficulties.

She said the half-transparent face masks are made under the ‘Khudol initiative’ that had already distributed essential medical items to women who were quarantined at various centres. She said the masks are being produced not for commercial purpose.

First Published:June 4, 2020, 11:17 p.m.