“Just Smile” features masks with a clear panel over the mouth, allowing those suffering from hearing loss to continue to lip read.
Justine Bates, 42, and her 11-year daughter Teona were born deaf and rely on lip-reading to socialise.
However, With masks becoming mandatory due to Covid, they have been heavily affected and felt socially isolated.
Justine claims the main inspiration for her design was her daughter.
She stated, “I was upset that everybody had to wear a mask at school. I thought about how my daughter is going to cope. So I thought to myself, what can I do?”
Her masks are hand-made and of 100% cotton and feature a polythene screen in the centre.
She launched her business in the summer after her masks went viral on Facebook.
Her husband Carl Bates said: “We woke up in the morning and there were over 400 messages from people and 10,000 shares in 24-hours. Things just exploded.”
Justine continued: “I didn’t come up with ‘Just Smile’ yet. But people would Facebook message me asking for them; I was getting 200 messages a day. It was mad.”
Carl discussed the impact the outbreak of COVID had on their daughter Teona. With masks being mandatory, she was unable to lip-read and felt lonely.
However, Teona is now back to her vibrant self, thanks to the visual mask.
Masks create a HUGE communication barrier with deaf people. I didn’t realize until now at work when someone had to sign what I said to her, because she couldn’t read my lips.
— 99 (@Rhiset_) December 13, 2020
He said, “At first, she was quite fearful of going outside because she relies on lip-reading. Even though she’s got bilateral implants, lip-reading is the second part of her hearing. Now we have made the masks.
“She found it a lot easier to go out and communicate with a friend. She can now have a conversation, before, she just stood there because she didn’t know what was going.”
Both Justine and Carl want to see the ‘Just Smile’ visual mask on everyone, not just the deaf community.
They believe everyone can benefit from showing off their smile.
Carl said, “Even if you’re not deaf, everyone relies on facial expressions. We all need to see people smile.”