Coronavirus: Transparent face masks help Belgian business see through crisis

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By Greg Lory, Joanna Gill
Worker making masks which special panels, Euronews, 2020.
Worker making masks which special panels, Euronews, 2020.   -  Copyright  Euronews 2020

Wearing a  face mask has become an uncomfortable fact of life as Europeans leave lockdown. But for deaf people, it has become a barrier to communication.

One small Belgian company, Brochage Renaître, decided to do something about it. They changed their book-binding business into a factory for transparent masks.

Almost overnight they went from prototype to production, with a first order from local authorities of 10,000 masks.

"In two days we bought sewing machines, we bought fabric, we set up a workflow," explains Sabine Charlier, director of Brochage Renaître.

She explains that one Friday they took 15 volunteers who we taught to sew. The following Monday they were operational.

For the deaf or hard of hearing, the see-through panel allows them to lip-read while maintaining a safe distance.

Donia Dubois, an employee who is deaf, said with the regular mask she either had to take it off or step far away from people to communicate with them.

"Now, with the new transparent piece, I can lip-read, which is much easier to communicate."

For the company, which was running at 10% of its capacity due to lockdown, it is a way of reviving its fortunes. The masks are also proving popular for different reasons.

"We also see that there is a big demand for speech therapists, primary teachers, people in hospitals, people who work with elderly people," says Charlier. "In these jobs, it's important for people to see facial expressions."