Face mask innovation for the deaf & hard of hearing


The world is donning masks at every level of society, from grocery store clerks to medical professionals, protecting not just themselves, but the community from the spread of coronavirus. However, there is one group who is seriously handicapped by the lack of facial visual cues, the deaf and hard of hearing.

Trying to help the American Sign Language (ASL) using community she knows so well, 21-year-old Lauren Sugrue, an Eastern Kentucky University student, has taken DIY to the next level creating homemade masks that allow you to see the mouth of the wearer. 

Lauren Sugrue was born hard of hearing. Sugrue says, “Lip reading has been more difficult because you don’t want people to take off their masks or other face coverings for protection. But when you can’t see their lips, it’s extremely difficult to know what they’re saying. I’ve had to find new ways to communicate even before COVID-19, but the pandemic has thrown new hurdles in our way.” Sugrue effectively used a whiteboard to communicate with doctors before coronavirus began to spread; however, many people in the deaf community now cannot pass a piece of paper or a whiteboard back and forth to a person who is standing six feet away.

“I felt like there was a huge population that was being looked over,” Lawrence said. “We’re all panicking right now and 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.”

Laurence has been generously sending her masks for free to those who need them and will be posting a tutorial for others to be able to make them and serve their communities by the end of the week. 

For the death care and end of life community, it’s an important reminder to keep eyes and ears open to the many faces who will be looking for help in the coming months. 

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