Ashley Lawrence is a college student from Versailles, Kentucky that unlike most of her peers that are grappling with boredom right now, decided to do something useful and productive in her free time.
This brilliant, young girl came up with the most incredible idea. After experiencing the face mask shortage first hand and witnessing people making their own face masks from whatever they can find at home, she decided that she wants to contribute. So, she let her imagination guide her and immediately got to work. She started sewing her own face masks, but unlike all the other masks out there, hers were special.
Lawrence, who is a senior at Eastern Kentucky University majoring in deaf education decided to design face masks for the deaf and hearing-impaired community.
“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,” Lawrence said in a Facebook 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”
She came up with two face mask designs, both with a transparent part around the lip that allows the deaf and hard of hearing people to understand what the other person is saying and she shared then on Facebook. The transparent screens help them read the lips of the person talking to them, but also notice the facial expressions of the person across them, which is a crucial way of communicating for those who use American Sign Language.
Her post immediately went viral and within days her mail was full of people reaching out for one of her masks.
“We have been so completely overwhelmed by the response, and pleased that we could do our part to bring awareness to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community,” Lawrence wrote in an email sent to CBS News on Thursday, signed the “DHH Mask Project.”
In the mail, she explained that her initial idea was to make face masks for the deaf and the hard of hearing in her local community of Kentucky. She also said that she had no prior experience in sewing and because of that she and her team are now working hard to assemble a group of people who could help create the masks and satisfy the high demand for them.
“I felt like there was a huge population that was being looked over,” Lawrence said.
She added: “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 also announced on her Facebook that she is now setting up a page that will help people connect with those who are willing to help.
Lawrence’s homemade masks are similar to regular surgical masks, whose primary function is to protect the person wearing it from large droplets that may contain viruses or bacteria, but also protect other people from the wearer’s respiratory emissions. But the thing that makes them one-of-a-kind is the fact that hers are made for a special group of people – The deaf and the hard of hearing.
“We started out making them with bedsheets that we had, and luckily bed sheets are big,” Lawrence said. “So we have two or three sets so we’re making them out of that. Then, a couple of months ago we needed plastic fabric for something. And so we have a whole roll of that and the window is only this big so having a whole roll is very helpful so luckily we haven’t needed any supplies yet.”
But that’s not all. She and her mother started developing other kinds of masks as well, depending on the needs of the person wearing it.
“We’re trying different things too for people with cochlear implants and hearing aids if they can’t wrap around the ears,” Lawrence said. “We’re making some that have around the head and around the neck.”
The good news is that word of Laurence’s innovation has quickly spread in several states and many people have already made ordered dozens of masks from her. Anyone can order! And what’s even more heart-warming is that she is sending them completely free of charge!
If you want to make an order, contact Ashley Lawrence at [email protected]. And if you want to help her with the production of masks, Ashley is also accepting donations on her GoFundMe page. Chip in a few dollars and save a life!