Olivia Harvey
Updated Apr 02, 2020 @ 5:46 pm
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Those who are skilled at sewing have taken up the task of creating reusable face masks for medical staff fighting coronavirus (COVID-19), as well as for members of the public. But one 21-year-old college student from Kentucky found a flaw in traditional masks for those who are deaf and hard of hearing. And she’s remedied the issue by designing face masks specifically for that community.

“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?” said Ashley Lawrence, a senior at Eastern Kentucky University, according to its local news station Lex 18. Lawrence is currently studying education for individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing.

Lawrence said that, due to the panic surrounding coronavirus, “a lot of people are just not being thought of,” including the deaf and hard of hearing community. So, using some leftover “plastic fabric” and old bedsheets, Lawrence and her mother designed a face mask with a see-through window. That window is key for people who are deaf or hard of hearing to either lip-read or better see a person emoting while signing.

“ASL [American Sign Language] is very big on facial expressions, and it is part of the grammar,” Lawrence explained.

And she isn’t stopping there. “We’re trying different things for people with cochlear implants and hearing aids if they can’t wrap around the ears,” Lawrence told Lex 18. “We’re making some that have around-the-head and around-the-neck [straps].”

Lawrence launched a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of materials to make the masks. As of today, March 2nd, she has reached her goal and is no longer accepting donations. However, she encourages those who want to contribute to donate instead to a charity that serves the deaf and hard of hearing communities.

If you’d like to place an order to receive one of Lawrence’s masks, you can contact her at dhhmaskproject@gmail.com.

“I’m not charging anything for them because I think that, if you need them, then you need them. And I don’t think that you should have to pay for them,” Lawrence said.

Lawrence also plans to upload a mask-making tutorial to YouTube later this week, so you can follow along to make your own if you have the necessary materials at home.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, HelloGiggles is committed to providing accurate and helpful coverage to our readers. As such, some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, we encourage you to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments, and visit our coronavirus hub.