Yogyakarta woman makes transparent masks

Wearing masks is one way to curb the spread of COVID-19 when we have to leave our homes for work or to run errands, but to the deaf community, a mask that hides someone’s mouth can be a literal barrier to effective communication.

Facial expressions and lip-reading are key for deaf people to understand others, so communicating without risking their health became a serious problem for the deaf community that called for an immediate solution. This is where Dwi Rahayu Februarti, a resourceful and skilled woman from Sleman, Yogyakarta, comes in.

Transparent masks that allow lip-reading

A man wears Dwi's transparent mask
|mage adapted from: The Jakarta Post

Inspired by a similar idea shared via Facebook by Bahrul Fuad, an official at the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan), Dwi set out to design her own mask with a transparent section that makes the wearer’s lips visible, making lip-reading and making out the speaker’s facial expressions possible.

A woman wears transparent mask
Image adapted from: Kumparan

The  41-year-old head of the Movement for Indonesian Deaf People’s Welfare’s (Gerkatin) local chapter said that for the community, communicating with paramedics was a struggle because they, too, wore standard medical face masks that covered half of the face.

Two men wear masks designed by Dwi
Image credit: Tribunnews.com

Wearers can still breathe through the filtering materials surrounding the transparent section of the mask. But as Dwi is still in the early stages of developing her design, she has faced a number of technical difficulties such as getting the transparent part of the mask to fit perfectly and providing enough room to prevent sticking and breathing discomfort. Thanks to direct feedback from members of her community, she continues to make improvements.

A one-woman effort that will hopefully blossom into something more

Transparent masks on a table
Image credit: Kumparan

There aren’t many of these special masks available yet because the production process is still a one-woman effort. But Dwi has no desire to keep her knowledge to herself as she hopes to transfer the skills to those around her by eventually releasing a tutorial video online.

Hopefully, Dwi’s efforts will inspire more people and government organizations to also prioritize the needs of marginalized communities across Indonesia.

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Cover image adapted from: The Jakarta Post and Kumparan

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