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DIY face masks with clear panels

Published Date: 15 May 2020
Photo: Vicki Kirwin is Senior Policy Advisor at NDCS

Lots of people have been getting in touch with us recently at the National Deaf Children’s Society, concerned about the wearing of face masks and the impact that this will have on deaf children and young people.

Many families with deaf children, and deaf adults, have expressed concerns about feeling anxious about their use and ability to communicate with others, and are worried about becoming more isolated than they are already.

We have been asked about face masks with clear panels in them which could help some deaf children who rely on lip-reading or sign language to get a better view of the face.

We know that this is not a solution that will suit all deaf children or be suitable in all situations. It’s going to be really important for everyone to be flexible, creative and patient in how they communicate with deaf children and young people. Doing so will help ensure that deaf children and young people are not further isolated at this challenging time.

For tips on communicating with deaf children when using masks, take a look at our infographic video below, or read our blog post, The impact of face masks on deaf children.

But for those families who do feel this option might be useful we have put together the following information.

Face masks in public places

It is widely understood by the scientific community that the risk of transmission of COVID-19 is vastly reduced by social distancing and where this is possible then face masks are not necessary. However, the UK Governments are now, depending on where you live, advising or requiring people to cover their face in some circumstances and when in enclosed spaces (e.g. when shopping or using public transport) when social distancing is more difficult.

Professor Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer said: “Wearing a face covering is an added precaution that may have some benefit in reducing the likelihood that a person with the infection passes it on. The most effective means of preventing the spread of this virus remains following social distancing rules and washing your hands regularly. It does not remove the need to self-isolate if you have symptoms.”

They are not currently recommended for use outdoors, when exercising or in workplaces or schools. It’s also not recommended for children under 2 years, children who are too young to wear face masks/coverings unassisted, or for those with respiratory conditions.

The Behavioural Science Consortium identify potential risks of using face masks as:

  • infection as a result of touching the mouth, nose or eyes with hands during use.
  • infection of surfaces that the mask touches.
  • perceptions of lower personal risk of infection and therefore lower adherence to preventative behaviours.
  • difficulties in communicating with others, particularly for people with hearing loss.

For more on this, see the Behaviour Science Consortium's advice on helping people to wear face masks safely and consistently.

The Government advises that members of the public should wear cloth face masks or coverings rather than surgical masks which should be reserved for healthcare workers.

Useful resources

We have put together a list of resources that can help you with ideas and patterns to make your own face mask at home that has a clear panel in it.

How to Make An Accessible, Deaf-Friendly Face Mask by the Hearing, Speech & Deaf Center.

The Global Coalition of Parents of Children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing (GPODHH) has also published a comparison of different kinds of face coverings for deaf children and offers advice on how to stop face coverings from steaming up.

NDCS makes no claims, either express or implied, that the shared resources on DIY face masks will prevent infection or the transmission of viruses or diseases.

It is highly recommended that you follow good practice when wearing face masks and face coverings (including washing of hands before and after putting it on or removing the mask, and ensuring the mask is washed following every use).

The Behavioural Science Consortium has created a document that uses techniques from behavioural science that help people to use masks as safely as possible.

Face masks in healthcare settings

We are aware of two manufacturers in the USA who produce face masks with clear panels which are safe for use in healthcare settings, but neither are currently available in the UK. We have been informed of one or two small scale manufacturers who are beginning work in this area in the UK but any product produced will need to be approved for use in clinical services and will take some time to become widely available.

We have written to health commissioners and asked them to urgently investigate options for purchasing medically safe face masks with clear panels. We have also asked them to ensure that health professionals are reminded of the importance of accessible information for patients and the use of good communication tactics whilst they are using masks widely in healthcare settings.

You can find out more about our response to this issue in our blog, The impact of face masks on deaf children.