Mask trial by Barnwood Trust
By Alice Angell
Digital Content Maker at Barnwood Trust
Trust is a charitable trust that aims to create the best possible environment for disabled people and people with mental health challenges in Gloucestershire, by being a catalyst for lasting change. When we reached out to the Let’s Be Clear’s partner organisations to ask them to trial some clear masks, we were also excited to take part. Whilst preparing this campaign we had read so much about clear masks, we wanted to finally see for ourselves to what extent they make communicating easier and clearer.
After an open invitation to Barnwood Trust staff, we sent five eager people a mask each to test in their day-to-day lives. The responses were wide-ranging, with a few similar themes discussed by everyone; comfort, fit, fogging, washing, and communication.
One of our favourites was the Molly Watt mask, for comfort and the size of the window, though it felt a bit roomy around the chin.
Another of our favourites was the Craft Masks Design. The tester of this clear mask found it to be comfortable, snug fitting around the face and people seemed to respond well to it. They added it to their laundry at 40 degrees and it fared quite well, though the plastic panel did gain some marks. Other testers hand-washed their masks under some hot water, and this worked well.
For most of the testers it was a case of getting used to wearing something different, and things improved over time. All of the masks were easy to stow away whilst on the move, although testers noted they had to be careful not to fold across the clear panel: “I made the mistake of folding it in my pocket which, although done with care, resulted in a ‘fold’ mark. This did not alter the efficacy or comfort of the mask. I decided to pin it to my jacket with a clip instead. This has worked brilliantly.”
All masks fogged up to some extent, but some of the testers tried treating their mask with a thin layer of washing up liquid or toothpaste, which seemed to solve this problem.
Testers found that communicating was easier and had some very positive interactions with people: “Out on the street, people commented how nice it was to be able to see someone’s smile. In a charity shop, a woman approached me and explained that she was hard of hearing and often feels isolated when in the community. She said ‘this makes me feel hope. One day, everyone will wear clear masks and I will feel more like we all belong together’.”
All of the testers agreed that wearing a clear face mask was a great opportunity to raise awareness of hidden disabilities and communication difficulties, someone said: “Everyone I spoke with seemed interested and said they hadn’t thought about masks being difficult for anyone before, so it was a great way into talking about communication disabilities.” And another said: “The best thing about wearing a clear face mask in my experience is that people ask me why I wear it, especially children, which gives us the opportunity to talk.”
When asked if they would recommend clear masks to other people, the overall response was positive.
It is evident that different clear mask designs work better for different people, to get just the right fit for comfort and to avoid fogging. And, even though the perfect mask design hasn’t been found yet, getting conversations going about hidden disabilities and the need for clear communication is definitely moving in the right direction.
To find out more about Barnwood Trust visit: www.barnwoodtrust.org