Published: 15th May 2020
This DRDO scientist's masks let the speech and hearing impaired communicate and smile. Here's how
To date, he has donated 50 such masks for free that can be washed and reused by people. Even the transparent sheets used in these masks are scratch-proof
When Vinod Karthavya came across one of his colleagues who is speech and hearing impaired, all he could think of were the challenges of communicating using the sign language if they cover their face with a mask. That's when he decided to design and stitch a unique mask for such people. Vinod who is an Assistant Scientist at DRDO and is a BPAC member says, "The COVID-19 pandemic has made the life of the specially-abled more difficult. We know that this pandemic will stay with us for more than a year and like everybody else, the hearing impaired people also need a mask. Therefore, I designed the Smile Mask that has is a combination of cloth and a transparent sheet. This transparent sheet allows the people to communicate through sign language or read lips even when they wear a mask."
Initially, Vinod tried stitching this mask by himself and it failed. He explains, "Last week when I tried stitching it, I could not get the shape right. It ended up in a round shape and did not fit properly on the face. Then I stitched it again but it did not cover the face properly. Later, I understood that the mask must be stitched in a curved shape. This time, it came out well, but the transparent sheet was sticking to the person's mouth, not allowing them to talk freely. I then approached my sister and a tenant and explained where I was going wrong. They helped me solve the error and ended up stitching a proper mask. They're both tailors."
Vinod had another challenge to face — fog formation on the sheet when people try to communicate. But he had a solution for that too. He found out that when you rub a normal dry soap on the sheet region and leave it for some time, it stops the formation of fog when people speak. "I tried doing it at home on the mask that I stitched and it worked. I was happy and satisfied that the ideas," he says.
Soon after stitching the mask, Vinod went online and made video calls to his friends who have speech and hearing impairment issues. He wore a mask and showed it to them of how it works. "They were happy to see this and smiled at me," he says. Hence, he decided to name it as 'Smile Mask'. "I gave these masks for free to 10 people. Later, I got in touch with the Karnataka Deaf Association Secretary who has given us an order for 500 masks. Apart from this, I got a call from a factory where only speech and hearing impairment people work. They have placed orders for 50 such masks, " says Vinod who is busy juggling between office work, getting raw materials and coordinating with tailors to stitch masks.
When we asked him, if he gives these masks for free, he says, "I have given off 50 such masks for free. But I am thinking to charge a small amount for each mask when I get bulk order like this. While I will buy raw materials like clothes, elastic and transparent sheets from the money that I have, I will charge some money that will help me pay the salaries of tailors who are stitching these masks for me. This will give them happiness and a sense of satisfaction for their hard work."