How To Get An Inclusive Face Mask That Helps Deaf People Communicate

Just Smile / Justine Bate

In an effort to help those who are deaf or have hearing loss, individuals across the UK are creating inclusive face coverings that feature a transparent layer across the mouth. By making the lips visible, those who rely on lip-reading and seeing facial expressions will still be able to communicate.

While wearing a face covering isn't mandatory everywhere in the UK, the government has advised that they should be worn "in enclosed public spaces where social distancing isn't possible". From June 15, you will have to wear one if you plan on travelling on public transport. But there's been no clear guidance on how "the twelve million people across the UK who have some sort of hearing loss" will be impacted, as Ayla Ozmen, Head of Research & Policy at charity Action for Hearing Loss explained in a press statement.

"This move has the potential to create further isolation amongst an already marginalised community of people. We want to ensure that people with hearing loss can communicate whilst also protecting themselves and others," she said.

Thankfully, many creative individuals up and down the country have taken to creating their own inclusive masks with transparent panels to aid communication. Here are some of the places you can buy these masks to help the wider community.

Justine Bate

Justine Bate initially made these inclusive masks for her and her daughters, as they are both deaf. But after sharing her creation online, she has been inundated with orders across the UK.

You can buy Bate's creations from her website, with a starting price of £5.99 depending on what sort of mask you'd like.

Breathe Easy

Based in Edinburgh, Breath Easy design, manufacture, and distribute "quality fabric facemasks to frontline sector workers, at-risk or vulnerable groups, and anyone concerned for friends or family."

Designed "to allow full sight of the lips and mouth area," Breath Easy have already provided these masks to many charities and care sector organisations.

You can purchase these masks for £15 from their site. There's also the option to donate, with 100% of proceedings going towards producing more masks.

Helen Botcherby

After being asked to make one by a friend who works as a British Sign Language Interpreter, Helen Botcherby made her inclusive mask by combining fabric and a plastic wallet from Aldi, per ChronicleLive.

"I'm quite creative. I have an embroidery machine and an industry sewing machine as I used to be a machinist in the past," she told the news site. "Pauline got in touch and I thought there must be a way to do it. I'll do anything to help anyone. I'm just over the moon that I can do something to make a difference."

Botcherby has "urged people to get in touch with her if they are need of PPE support" through her Facebook page, where she has also supplied local hospitals with headbands to make their masks more comfortable.

Sonia Carley

A member of the Salisbury Makers Hub, who provide essential workers with supplies, Sonia Carley taught herself to sew after seeing a request for inclusive masks. "As an engineer I just had the time, there's so much need for it and they look so much better."

With the help of others, the group has made over 40 with another 150 or so due to go out to local charity Wiltshire Portage and additional needs schools.

While you can't buy a mask from Carley directly, you can access DIY instructions via the Salisbury Makers Hub Facebook group to make your own.

Etsy / Feltbybex

Made by a volunteer scrubs sewer for the NHS, these masks are made with a "free spunbound polypropylene filter". While they aren't medical grade, they're the ideal face covering for when you're out and about.

Prices start at £6.50, depending on if you have any special requirements.

BumbleBeezDresses & AtoZDecals

BumbleBeezDresses provides an array of pretty patterns for these inclusive masks, which also include adjustable elastic loops. While they're a bit pricey at £20.95, they're made with 100% cotton and you can request custom requirements.

For a slightly cheaper option, AtoZDecals offers a similar design, without the adjustable loops at £19.95.

Maison ZiZou

If you want to have a go at making these yourself, YouTube creator Maison ZiZou has an easy-to-follow tutorial. All you need is the fabric of your choice, two elastic cords, plastic sheet protection, a sewing machine, and a needle and thread.

Whether you're after these inclusive masks for yourself, family members, or the wider community, knowing how to craft these masks is a handy skill to have.