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West Japan blackboard maker creates clear partitions for use in classrooms, meetings

An acrylic board that prevents droplet transmission of the novel coronavirus is shown in this photo taken at Iwama Kokuban, a blackboard manufacturer based in Zentsuji, Kagawa Prefecture, on June 25, 2020. It can be placed in front of blackboards in classrooms, so teachers can give lessons without wearing masks. (Mainichi/Yukinao Kin)

ZENTSUJI, Kagawa -- A blackboard manufacturer in this western Japan city has created a transparent partition that can be used in classrooms so that teachers can give lessons without wearing masks while also preventing transmission of the novel coronavirus.

While schools have resumed regular classes, the use of masks has become indispensable in the coronavirus-era "new normal." However, it has been pointed out that children with hearing impairments face difficulties in communication as they rely on the movement and shape of teachers' mouths to understand what they are saying. When a teacher's mouth is hidden by a mask, it becomes difficult for such students to learn how to pronounce words in English classes, among various other negative consequences.

Iwama Kokuban, a blackboard manufacturer based in Zentsuji, Kagawa Prefecture, developed a clear acrylic board attached with caster wheels, which measures 180 centimeters by 90 cm. When placed in front of the blackboard in a classroom, teachers can give lectures and write notes on the chalkboard without wearing a mask. As the acrylic board prevents droplet transmission, it can also be used during company meetings, presentations, and other settings.

A desktop partition created by a blackboard manufacturer is seen attached in front of the chairman's seat in a municipal hall in the western Japan city of Zentsuji, Kagawa Prefecture, on June 25, 2020. (Mainichi/Yukinao Kin)

President Koji Sumino, 53, commented, "I would like for it to be used certainly at schools, and also in various other settings."

Furthermore, the manufacturer also created a smaller version, which is 90 cm by 60 cm, that can be placed on desks and is envisioned for use at municipal hall counters and circulation desks at libraries among other places. The city assembly of Zentsuji attached the ordered product in front of the chairman's seat and used it during an assembly meeting in June. The municipal assembly aims to hold meetings suitable for an age where people live "with corona," and says it will keep the acrylic boards set up for future sessions.

The product costs 36,000 yen ($333.72) for the larger board with caster wheels, and 15,000 yen ($139.05) for the desktop partitions. The larger board will be sold at a special price of 30,000 yen until the end of July, and sales will be limited to areas within Kagawa Prefecture, excluding island areas, for the time being, as the caster wheels must be attached by employees of the manufacturer on site. The maker is considering expanding sales nationwide once the caster wheels are redesigned so that they can be easily attached.

For inquiries, please call Iwama Kokuban at 0877-62-1631 (in Japanese).

(Japanese original by Yukinao Kin, Takamatsu Bureau)

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