Accessible face masks for people with hearing impairments upgraded with lightweight material
Social enterprise Friendly Face Masks (FFM) has upgraded its accessible face masks for people with communication difficulties with a more lightweight, breathable and splash-proof design.
FFM says it is now able to mass-produce and deliver its latest, improved facemask design – Friendly Face Masks Poly Mask – to people worldwide. These inclusive face masks help improve accessibility for individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly for those with hearing impairments and those who rely on lipreading.
In July, FFM Founder Sonia Carley petitioned for technical and financial support for her unique medical-grade face masks to be made available for NHS use.
Now, the face masks have been updated and will be made from polypropylene: a more breathable, lightweight, machine-washable, reusable and splash-proof material.
Due to the lighter material, the new FFM Poly Mask features a larger lipreading window, making it more accessible for deaf, hard-of-hearing users and those that they need to communicate with.
Upon its initial release and delivery to various sectors, the new FFM Poly Mask will be available in the one shade of black and three adult sizes. However, FFM has confirmed that the line will be expanded in the future, promising new colours and sizes to accommodate different face shapes.
On creating the refined lipreading face mask, Sonia said: “I experimented with the polypropylene and found that it was much better. I’ve gone through four or five different construction methods of the mask and tried hundreds of materials, and the polypropylene always came out on top.
“Therefore, I am now confident that the masks are ready to be mass-manufactured and stocked by many organisations that face the public. Also, I now have a vast amount of experience in understanding the masks’ tolerances to the millimetre, which means that I know when I mass-manufacture them there will be no unforeseen errors.”
FFM has supplied its innovative face masks to countries worldwide such as the USA, Canada, France, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Hungary, the UAE as well as the UK.
“I was inspired to start Friendly Face Masks by a local request for a lipreading-friendly mask,” Sonia commented. “Though I’ve never even used a sewing machine before, I decided to draw upon my skills and past experience as an engineer to draw up and eventually produce a complex design that is suitable for both lipreading and use with hearing aids. So, I’m really proud that Friendly Face Masks has become the first lipreading and hearing aid face mask to become widely available in the UK and across the globe.”
Following a BBC interview, Sonia began receiving more than 500 emails a week requesting her products.
She continued: “It was at this point that I realised the extent of this issue. It wasn’t just the deaf and hard-of-hearing that needed these masks – it was everyone around them that they need to communicate with.
“It was children whose only physical indicator of these troubling times was an alien population where smiles were hidden behind faceless masks. It was also the elderly population, particularly those with Alzheimer’s, that were thinking someone was breaking into their home to hurt them because they couldn’t even see a smile.”
To find out more about FFM’s accessible masks, visit the website