College Student Makes Masks for the Deaf & Hard of Hearing

The coronavirus made havoc in the whole world completely disturbing the way how we lead our lives just couple of months ago. Due to the Government measures we need to stay at home and not get involved in any social activity that requires our mere presence. Many people complain that they are deeply bored, but according to researchers when we are bored we can develop some amazing ideas.

No one likes this situation and people start to feel frustrated being locked down, however there is a bright side in this situation and that is at last finding time for ourselves, clearing our heads and focusing on things that matter.

Ashley Lawrence, a college senior from Versailles, Kentucky, is following the recommendations of the officials for social distancing and stays in her home. In the beginning she felt like anyone else, bored, not knowing what to do with all her free time. Yet, in her mandatory stay at home she came up with an amazing idea!

One of the preventive measures of the coronavirus is wearing masks, most commonly N95 surgical masks. Wearing them can allow filtration of 95% of all airborne particles, and because of they are in high demand.

These facial masks have one disadvantage that involves the people with hearing impairment as most of them rely on reading lips as a way of communicating and understanding other people, and now the lips are covered with the masks.

Lawrence is well aware of this issue as her studies are based on education for the deaf and hard of hearing at Eastern Kentucky University. Therefore, she immediately recognized the fact that wearing protective masks will be a great issue for people with hearing impairment.

She says:

“I just saw that people were making masks on Facebook for everyone to have instead of the throwaway masks, and I was like, what about the deaf and hard of hearing population?

I felt like there was a huge population that was being looked over.

We’re all panicking right now and so a lot of people are just not being thought of. So, I felt like it was very important that, even at a time like this, people need to have that communication.”

Considering that this would be a great problem she thought of making masks where the wearer’s mouth would be see-through. She mentioned her idea to her mother and both of them started the creation of a surgical mask that allows others to view the wearer’s mouth. They used everything that they had in their home like bed sheets, plastic fabric, and elastic.

Protective masks designed for deaf and hard of hearing people

Ashley Lawrence (left) and her mother

Both of them created different kinds of masks suitable for the people suffering from hearing impairment like masks for people with cochlear implants and hearing aids, and “some that have around the head and around the neck.”

Their masks are designed “for anyone who uses speech reading, lip reading, anybody like that”, and also for people who are” profoundly deaf and use ASL as their primary mode of communication”.

Lawrence produces these masks with her mother, but she does not charge for them. Up to now, people in six states have already ordered dozens of masks, and within the states she sends them completely free of charge. For the people outside the U.S. she might charge only for shipping costs.

People, who need them, can order one by emailing to her at dhhmaskproject@gmail.com.

In order to produce more masks she has launched a GoFundMe page. She explains:

“Paper masks with clear pieces over the mouth already exist, but like the regular surgical masks, they are in short supply during this crisis. So I have modified the fabric mask pattern to be suitable for those who lip read or who rely on the facial expressions used when communicating in ASL to understand meaning and intention.”

She managed to raise more than $3,000, and she closed her fundraiser to new donations. These funds she intends to use to cover the material and shipping costs, and if there are any leftover money it will be donated to the non-profit organization Hands and Voices. This organization supports families with deaf or hard of hearing children.

Now is the time when we show our solidarity and humanity. Lawrence sends the following message:

“The biggest thing during this time is if you’re fine if you’re at home and you’re not working, do something for someone else that will make you feel good and help someone out in the community.”

Sources:

lex18.com

independent.co.uk

metro.co.uk