Close to a lakh custom-made masks have come out of three units in Tiruppur since the first week of May. What is special about this project is that they are transparent masks designed for the speech- and hearing-impaired in the state.

The State Commissionerate for the Welfare of Persons with Disabilities in Chennai has been their biggest customer. As part of the pilot project, 81,000 masks were stitched to be distributed to nearly 13,500 persons with disabilities, as well as their parents and teachers.

Ask A.G. Padmanaban, who is overseeing the ‘Clear Mask’ project with his team from No Food Waste, a non-profit organisation, if he’s happy with the response, and this is his response: “We are still improvising on the design.”

As people who are deaf or have hearing loss rely heavily on visual clues for effective communication – that includes body language, gestures, facial expression and lip-reading – they require specially-designed transparent masks.

Volunteers from No Food Waste came up with this project after realising the challenges faced by special people. “YouTube videos and inputs from the State Commissionerate for the Welfare of Persons with Disabilities have all been taken into consideration while designing these masks, but we are still effecting tweaks based on feedback,” says Padmanaban. The materials for the masks are sourced entirely from the textile city. As a layer of plastic is used, the team has been researching to find out if other biodegradable material could be used as an alternative. “But, biodegradable material developed cracks easily, so we are trying three other materials,” he says. Another feedback is that fogginess develops in a mask after 20 to 25 minutes of using it. “We are also studying about possible anti-fogging materials that could be used,” he says.

Padmanaban stresses that even as they will keep turning out more clear masks, the main criteria they have in mind is to keep it as affordable as possible. “We have priced it between ₹15 and ₹ 20,” he says.

For details, contact 8870655565.

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