The pandemic made the DHH community struggling to access critical information
The time when wearing a face mask is extremely important to avoid coronavirus attack, people are somehow facing the shortage in every country. The scenario tends people to make alternatives to tackle unwelcomed threat such as using homemade masks made of old clothes. Among many arrangements, the Deaf and Hard of hearing community left unheard. Coronavirus pandemic for them is not only stressful but scarier than normal people. Fortunately, one helping hand has come up with a solution for them.
Ashley Lawrence, a 21-year-old student at Eastern Kentucky University, studies education for people who are Deaf or hard of hearing. She noticed that since so much of the population now are opting to wear protective face masks, the DHH community who rely on lip-reading are struggling to access critical information.
Ms. Lawrence has devised a reusable face mask that is suitable for the deaf and hard of hearing. The masks are made with a see-through segment over the mouth area to accommodate people with hearing impediments. Sign language itself often relies on facial expressions, which cannot be seen when a person is wearing a standard face mask.
Deaf community overlooked
It is common to see a general shortage of protective masks world-wide. But it seems little thought has been given to how facial masks would affect the deaf and hard of hearing.
Ms. Lawrence saw that people were making masks on Facebook for everyone to have instead of the throwaway masks. She thought, what about the deaf and hard of hearing population?
“I felt like there was a huge population that was being looked over,” Lawrence reported. “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.”
Working with her mom, Ashley decided to do something proactive about the situation. They started using bedsheets as the predominant material in the design and for the transparent mouth section, she used a roll of plastic fabric that she bought a few months ago for another purpose. She’s “overwhelmed” with the response so far.
No charge for facial masks
Ms. Lawrence has decided to give away the masks for free. She has set up a GoFundMe page to try and cover production costs.
In the United States, 3.6% of the population (roughly 11 million) people, consider themselves deaf or having serious hearing difficulties.