Special Masks For the Deaf in India

In the post COVID world, Deaf individuals are struggling to communicate due to opaque masks. Watch our latest video to learn more.

After the spread of the COVID-19 infection, the 18 million Deaf in India have become even more alienated. Because of opaque masks, Deaf individuals are unable to read lips and see expressions. A few Deaf individuals rely on lip-reading, some depend on both lip-reading and Sign Language and some rely totally on Indian Sign Language. However, ISL has not received any recognition from the government. Days before lockdown, Maha Sundaram, a Union Bank of India who was born deaf and has vision loss in one eye, faced a peculiar problem. Since most of her colleagues wore masks, she could neither read their lips nor their expressions. She had to write as none of her colleagues or customers knew sign language. Due to masks and the humid weather, her glasses became foggy and made it difficult to see clearly. She said that, "To communicate, both the person and I had to remove our masks and this was very risky.” 

Muskaan Chinoy, a mother of two, was born Deaf to a hearing family and navigated her life by lipreading her parents' lips. During the lockdown she had to raise her voice at shops while asking shopkeepers to remove their masks so she could lipread. Muskaan said, “Most shopkeepers simply diverted me to another one they all were unable to understand me," When she went to stores, some did not understand her english lists, she had to show images of tortilla chips and bathroom powder on Google. Muskaan says, “I feel more disabled now.” Around the world and in India, the Deaf Community has been demanding governments to officially recognise Sign Language but now they are urgently demanding the transparent masks. Malvika Periwal (33), a Deaf individual from Kolkata who is a wedding photographer, has also started an initiative to sell see through masks. Mansi Shah, Operations Manager, India Signing Hands Pvt Ltd, which runs an online news channel for the Deaf said, “Until the health ministry issues guidelines about clear masks, the Deaf community will continue to suffer. The best solution is for hearing people to learn basic ISL. It will help deaf people, during lockdown or not."