Shortages in medical supplies due to the current COVID-19 health crisis have been making headlines for weeks now. In response to the issue, US citizens across the country have sprung into action, creating home-made face masks to keep themselves safe and healthy. Some have even volunteered their time towards making larger quantities of masks as donations to their local healthcare workers. In an effort to be of service during quarantine, Kentucky college student, Ashley Lawrence, decided to take the idea a step further, aiming to create masks that would specifically serve the deaf and hard of hearing community.
In an interview with LEX18 news, Lawrence explained, “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. So I felt like it was very important that, even at a time like this, people need to have that communication.”
A senior at Eastern Kentucky University studying education for people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, Lawrence took note of the fact that the standard masks being utilized during this crisis cover the majority of the face, including the lips. Unfortunately, those who struggle with hearing often rely on lip-reading and facial expressions to receive information. Lawrence elaborated on the issue to LEX18 news, stating “if half of that is gone because you’re wearing a mask then half of what you’re saying is being missed.”
In an effort to ensure equal access to critical information, Lawrence designed her home-made face masks with a clear plastic window that exposes the movements and expressions of the mouth. Lawrence described these masks as being made “for anyone who uses speech reading, lip reading, anybody like that.” She went on to explain that these masks would also serve, “people who are profoundly deaf who use ASL [American Sign Language] as their primary mode of communication.”
Lawrence’s Deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) mask project took off, receiving dozens of orders shortly after going live. What started as an initiative to serve her local community quickly made its way across the country.
Overwhelmed by the public response to DHH mask project, Lawrence began taking donations to make enough masks to meet demands. Operating from the belief that this access should be freely given to all those who need it, she has decided to send her masks out free of charge.
Lawrence is encouraging people to make their own masks to contribute to the cause, ensuring that needs are met in communities nationwide. In support of this statement, she is creating a mask-making tutorial video to post on YouTube, as well as offering her mask sewing patterns to anyone who asks! (Source)
We are blown away by the kindness and compassion that motivated Lawrence to take action and use her stir-crazy quarantine energy to serve the greater good. It’s stories like these that give us hope and are getting us through these difficult times!