There’s been an outpouring of support from sewers around the country as they race to provide more personal protective equipment for healthcare professionals treating those afflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic. But one college senior in Kentucky studying education for the deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) quickly realized that protective face masks are prohibitive for people who rely on speech reading or lip reading to communicate. As local NBC-affiliate LEX18 reports, Ashley Lawrence is spending her free time sewing face masks for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community.
“I felt like there was a huge population that was being looked over,” said Lawrence, the 21-year-old senior who is earning her specialized degree at Eastern Kentucky University. “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 used bed sheets and leftover plastic crafting supplies to create the mask that provides protection, but clearly shows a user’s mouth to help people who rely on lip reading skills to communicate.
“[American Sign Language] is very big on facial expressions and it is part of the grammar,” she explained, using interpreters employed by the governor of Kentucky as an example. “So I don’t know if you have seen Virginia Moore on Andy Beshear’s things at five o’clock, but she’s very emotive, and if half of that is gone because you’re wearing a mask then half of what you’re saying is being missed, so even if it’s not physically talking and just using ASL, then you need to have that kind of access.”
Lawrence is also working on other inclusive face masks, as well: “We’re trying different things for people with cochlear implants and hearing aids if they can’t wrap around the ears,” Lawrence told LEX18. “We’re making some that have around the head and around the neck.”
Facebook users from around the world have taken time to connect with Lawrence, sharing how her story and her initiative has impacted them. “These are great,” one user commented. “My daughters co-workers need these. She can’t read lips anymore. And wearing mask with hearing aids is hard on her ears.” There are nearly 500 shares and more than 100 comments from sewers who are interested in helping create more, as well as people who are hoping they may receive some for caregivers in their own community.
Lawrence told LEX18 that she’s received dozens of orders from six different states within 48 hours of sharing her prototype on Facebook. According to her profile, she’s working on creating a template that can be shared virtually with sewers who want to create their own, and she’s also establishing a new Facebook page for those interested in helping her aid more individuals in the DHH community. In the interim, she’s set up an email where people can learn more information: [email protected] And she’s also created a GoFundMe campaign to help her cover the costs of shipping and production in her own home.
From: Good Housekeeping US
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