College Student Makes See-Through Masks For The Deaf During Coronavirus Pandemic, Allowing For Lip Reading

Ashley Lawrence is advocating for the deaf and hard-of-hearing population, who also need to protect themselves during the pandemic.

Face masks lay on a table.
Sean Gallup / Getty Images

Ashley Lawrence is advocating for the deaf and hard-of-hearing population, who also need to protect themselves during the pandemic.

Ashley Lawrence, who is only 21 years old, has created see-through masks so that the deaf and hard-of-hearing population can protect themselves during the coronavirus pandemic. The masks look quite similar to the traditional ones being used, but they feature a clear window over the mouth so that those who are deaf are able to read lips or use American Sign Language to communicate, according to Tank’s Good News.

Due to shortages of masks, many Americans are trying not to purchase throwaway masks in stores as they are greatly needed by medical professionals, as well as those that are already sick or vulnerable. Instead, many people have opted to make their own reusable masks using materials they have around their home — such as bandanas or T-shirts.

When Lawrence saw these masks, she realized they would not work effectively for those who need to see other people’s mouths and have their own mouths visible to communicate, she explained.

“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 because we’re all panicking right now, so a lot of people are just not being thought of.”

Lawrence is studying Education for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing at Eastern Kentucky University, thus she understands how big a role the movement of the mouth and facial expressions play in communication among this group of people.

“ASL is big on facial expressions—that’s part of the grammar… if half of that is gone because you’re wearing a mask, then half of what you’re saying is being missed,” she explained.

Lawrence’s mother helped her bring her vision of these special masks to life. They used resources they had lying around their house, including bedsheets and a sewing machine.

Once the news got out about Lawrence’s generous project, she began to receive orders from those that wanted to purchase them themselves. Nevertheless, the college student is giving them away for free.

“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,” she explained.

However, she does have a GoFundMe page, which is helping to raise money to pay for fees like shipping.

It is become increasingly important to find ways to produce safety gear like reusable face masks in order to ensure that medical professionals are not having to do without. As The Inquisitr previously reported, there have been stories of some nurses having to reuse their throwaway masks all week due to hospital shortages.