Friendly Face Mask (as seen on the BBC) is the first lip-reading and hearing aid face mask to become widely available in the UK and across the globe.
Sonia Carley is the designer and crusader behind bringing these much needed masks to millions of deaf and hard of hearing users. After seeing a local request for a lip-reading friendly face mask she set to work. As an engineer, Sonia already possessed a keen eye for detail and the technical know how to achieve high end complex design, however, having never used a sewing machine before her tooling skills were poor at best.
Within a few weeks and multiple remakes of the mask (not to mention burns, cuts and scalds), Sonia had a mask she was happy with. Delighted to be able to help the deaf and hard of hearing community Sonia offered to freely provide the masks to those who requested them. Within days the BBC caught hold of this and interviewed Sonia on her local radio station, this was backed up by a video that went viral with over 750k views and hundreds of shares. Within days Sonia had over 500 emails, each requesting the face mask, within a week thousands of masks were requested and more requests were arriving by the hour.
‘It was at this point that I realised the extent of this issue, it wasn’t just the deaf and hard of hearing that needed these masks, it was everyone around them that they need to communicate with. It was children whose only physical indicator to these troubling time was an alien population where smiles were hidden behind faceless masks. It was also the elderly population, particularly those with Alzheimer’s, that were thinking someone was breaking into their home to hurt them.’
Unable to follow through on her original idea Sonia knew she couldn’t keep up or give up. So in a miraculous show of determination she set about finding a way to mass manufacture the masks so that she could provide everyone with what they needed. She set up a Friendly Face Mask Ltd, set Design Rights in place, sought legal advice, pushed for financing and searched for a way to mass produce them masks in a time when everywhere was shut for business.
That leads us here. To Friendly Face Mask. Sonia took her design to a local tailor, with a few tweaks and some innovative inspiration Sonia created 5 sizes of mask and set in motion the mass manufacture of thousands of masks.
‘Although I was unable to provide the masks for free as I initially (somewhat naively) hoped, I have factored charitable donations into the cost. Per mask this doesn’t amount to much, but for those that will benefit from this scheme, and to me personally, it means a great deal’.