Advice for wearing a mask for people who are blind or have low vision

21 July 2020

As of 11.59pm Wednesday, July 22, COVID-19 restrictions in the local government areas within greater Melbourne and Mitchell Shire will require people aged over 12 years-old to wear a face covering when outside their home, with some exemptions.

The Victorian Chief Health Officer also recommends that all Victorians wear a face covering when outside their home if it is difficult for them to remain 1.5m apart from other people.

We understand some people who are blind or have low vision might find wearing and putting on a mask more challenging or confronting than others. We’ve provided this information to try make this change easier for people.

We have also provided this information in audio format. You can listen to it on Podbean or via the player below:

 

General advice

The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) recommends people use cloth masks or surgical masks as face coverings if possible.

Other types of masks and respirators, such as P2 or N95 masks, are not recommended for use in the community and not advised to be used outside of healthcare or specific industries under health advice.

The DHHS has released information on their websites to help answer frequently asked questions people may have about wearing face coverings.  

Wearing a mask

Before wearing a mask, the DHHS recommends you wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, or use hand sanitiser that is made up of over 60% alcohol before putting it on, and after taking it off.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth at all times and store used face masks in a sealed plastic bag until you have an opportunity to wash them.

You should also wash or sanitise your hands before removing your mask.

You should also check your mask for defects, such as tears, holes or broken loops. Do not use a mask if these are present or if the mask contains a valve.

Cloth mask

  • A cloth mask should fit securely around the face, specifically covering the nose and the mouth areas.
  • The mask should fit snugly on your face and be secured by ties at the back of your head or ear loops.
  • If you are using a mask with ear loops, you can use a plastic clip or tie to join the ends together at the back of your head to make sure it fits snugly on your face.
  • A cloth mask should be washed each day after use. However, if during the day your mask is visibly dirty or wet, do not continue wearing your mask; the mask needs to be washed.

Surgical mask

  • A surgical mask has one coloured side and one white side.
  • Ear loops are attached to the white side. Position this side over your mouth with the coloured side facing outwards.
  • If present, make sure the metallic strip is at the top of the mask and positioned against the bridge of your nose.
  • If the mask has:
    • Ear loops: Hold the mask by both ear loops and place one loop over each ear.
    • Ties: Hold the mask by the upper strings. Tie the upper strings in a secure bow near the crown of your head. Tie the bottom strings securely in a bow near the nape of your neck.
    • Dual elastic bands: Pull the bottom band over your head and position it against the nape of your neck. Pull the top band over your head and position it against the crown of your head
  • Mould the bendable metallic upper strip to the shape of your nose by pinching and pressing down on it with your fingers.
  • Pull the bottom of the mask over your mouth and chin.
  • Be sure the mask fits snugly.
  • Don’t touch the mask once in position.
  • If the mask gets soiled or damp, replace it with a new one.

Removing a mask

  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitiser containing at least 60% alcohol.
  • Don’t touch the front of the mask or your face.
  • Carefully remove your mask by grasping the ear loops or untying the ties. For masks with a pair of ties, unfasten the bottom one first, then the top one.
  • If your mask has filters, remove them and throw them away. Fold the mask and put it directly into the laundry or into a disposable or washable bag for laundering. Single use surgical masks should be disposed of responsibly.
  • Clean your hands again.

Making your own cloth mask

The DHHS recommends cloth masks should be made of three layers of a mix of breathable fabrics to ensure adequate protection. It does not need to be surgical quality to be effective.

The DHHS has published a fact sheet on how people can make a cloth mask at home:

Please note, the PDF has been prepared by the DHHS and not Vision Australia. You can request the PDF in other formats by emailing public.health@dhhs.vic.gov.au. The Word document contains the information found in the PDF as July 21, 2020.

Tips for people who are blind or have low vision

  • Tactile indicators can help you identify the top of your mask to ensure you’re wearing it correctly. If attaching a tactile indicator to your mask, be careful not to puncture or tear the mask.
  • If making a cloth mask, consider using contrasting colours or suitable textured fabrics to help you identify your mask, as well as being able to identify parts of your mask, such as ear loops.
  • Where possible, always put your mask on by yourself. If this is not possible, ensure anybody who is helping you is known to you, is wearing their own mask and has thoroughly washed or sanitised their hands before touching you or your mask.
  • When not in use, keep your masks organised and in a location that is easy to access.
  • If you are using a cloth mask, take note if it begins to fray, slip from your face or no longer fit snugly across on your face. If you need to constantly adjust it, consider replacing it. 

Further information

If you would like further information about the COVID-19 situation in Victoria, you should visit the DHHS COVID-19 website or call their 24/7 hotline on 1800 675 398.

You can also visit the Australian Department of Health website or call their 24/7 hotline on 1800 020 080.

Please keep Triple Zero (000) for emergencies only.

For more information about Vision Australia services during COVID-19, visit visionaustralia.org/COVID19 or call 1300 84 74 66.