“The solution seemed clear to me."

By Cailey Rizzo
April 03, 2020
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A college student in Kentucky has invented a clever solution for the deaf and hard-of-hearing communities in need of facemasks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Those who rely on lip reading or ASL to communicate are often cut off from their source of communication when doctors and nurses don surgical masks,” Ashley Lawrence wrote on her GoFundMe page. “The solution seemed clear to me: just like there are fabric surgical masks being made, so too does there need to be masks made that are adapted for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.”

Lawrence, who is studying Education for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing at Eastern Kentucky University, put her practice to work and created mask with a clear window that shows a person's mouth. With help from her mom, Lawrence is making reusable masks from spare bedsheets and plastic.

Although she mentioned that masks with the clear feature already exists she noted, "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."

Further, Lawrence is even looking to improve upon the masks by making them wearable for people with cochlear implants and hearing aids.

"I felt like there was a huge population that was being looked over," told local news outlet Lex18. "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."

She is supplying masks to those who have been diagnosed with coronavirus and those who would like them as a preventative measure.

Aitor Diago/Getty

"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 told Lex18. "So we are sending them out for free whenever we have people asking for them and if they're foreign, then maybe we'll charge shipping, but other than that they're completely free."

Any funds that are left over after creating the masks will be donated to Hands & Voices, a non-profit that supports the families with children who are deaf or hard of hearing.