Facebook | Ashley Lawrence

College Student Makes Innovative Face Masks For People With Hearing Impairments

A crafty college student in Kentucky has come up with an innovative face mask design that will help protect people with hearing impairments against the ongoing outbreak.

Ashley Lawrence recently posted about the special masks on Facebook which quickly went viral, inspiring the student to tweak the design and expand production in order to provide as many masks to as many people in need as possible.

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Lawrence, 21, is currently studying education for the deaf and hard of hearing at Eastern Kentucky University.

Facebook | Ashley Lawrence

As someone who regularly interacts with the hearing impaired community, she knows all about the importance of communicating via lip reading or ASL, and how difficult this becomes when mouths are covered by masks.

"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?" she explained to local NBC affiliate LEX 18.

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Lawrence said she's become frustrated with the lack of attention given to this community in the midst of the corona outbreak.

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"I felt like there was a huge population that was being looked over," she explained. "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."

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That's when she came up with her design for her reusable, hearing impaired-friendly face masks.

Facebook | Ashley Lawrence

With her mom's help, the pair began crafting the masks, which feature a clear plastic piece over the mouth so the wearer's lips are visible, but still safely protected.

“[The masks 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,” Lawrence explained. “ASL is very big on facial expressions and it is part of the grammar.”

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She recently posted about her innovative masks on Facebook where they quickly went viral.

Facebook | Ashley Lawrence

"So right before the pandemic, masks were made and made commercialized to help people with hearing loss have access to their doctor’s mouths for lip reading/speech reading," she wrote in the post.

"Because of the shortage of masks, everyone started making their own, so I thought: why not make them for all?? This is how we stay #HealthyatHome"

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In an update, Lawrence said she's been "completely overwhelmed" by people's response to the masks.

Ashley Lawrence via LEX18

“We’ve updated the pattern for the mask to be easier to make,” she said, adding, “We’d love to make you some, or send you the pattern to make your own!! We are #TogetherKentucky.”

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Lawrence has since set up a GoFundMe page where revealed she plans on distributing the masks for free of charge.

Ashley Lawrence via LEX18

She explained that any money raised through the fundraiser will go towards covering the cost of materials and shipping. Unused money will be donated to Hands & Voices, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting families with children who are deaf or hard of hearing.

The GoFundMe raised $3,387, and Lawrence has now shared that they will no longer be accepting donations as they surpassed their unspecified original goal.

h/t: LEX 18

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