A Kentucky college student is using her crafting skills to aid the deaf and hard of hearing community during the coronavirus pandemic.
Ashley Lawrence, who is studying Education for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing at Eastern Kentucky University, realized that the face masks many are wearing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 puts individuals with a hearing impairment at a disadvantage.
She noted that while covering the whole mouth may be done as a precaution, it makes it extremely difficult for those who rely on lip reading and ASL (American Sign Language) to communicate.
The solution seemed very clear, so she began creating masks that feature a clear plastic piece right over the mouth area making the lips visible.
“[These are] for anyone who uses speech reading, lip reading, anybody like that, and people who are profoundly deaf who use ASL as their primary mode of communication,” she told WLEX. “ASL is very big on facial expressions and it is part of the grammar.”
“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,” she added. “So, I felt like it was very important that, even at a time like this, people need to have that communication.”
While the 21-year-old plans to make the masks for free for anyone who needs them -- including those who aren’t sick but want to give them to a doctor or caretaker -- she set up a GoFundMe to offset the cost of materials and shipping.
After raising $3,387, she reached her goal and disabled new donations for the time being.
Anyone who would like to request a mask can reach Lawrence at email@example.com.
The CDC has revised it stance that only those caring for the sick should wear masks and now advises all Americans to voluntarily wear cloth masks.
While they would normally suggest proper PPE, the recent shortages of N95 masks have forced them to consider approving homemade masks as a last resort.