She's using her time in quarantine to make a difference.

By Christina Oehler
April 03, 2020
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A lot of people are using their time in quarantine to sit at home and binge their favorite Netflix shows (Tiger King, anyone?) But there are some people who are going above and beyond during this time of need. Ashley Lawrence, 21, is using her time at home to do some serious good. She's making face masks that allow the deaf and hard of hearing community to continue to communicate via lip reading and American Sign Language (ASL).

Lawrence, a college senior from Versailles, Kentucky, is studying Education for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing at Eastern Kentucky University. According to her GoFundMe page, Lawrence's studies inspired her to create face masks for the deaf and hard of hearing. She realized that since traditional face masks are already in short supply, the deaf and hard of hearing community must also have a shortage of masks that can accommodate their disability.

"I have a great appreciation for the ways in which the world is designed with hearing people in mind. Those who rely on lip reading or ASL to communicate are often cut off from their source of communication when doctors and nurses don surgical masks," Lawrence wrote on her GoFundMe page. "The solution seemed clear to me: just like there are fabric surgical masks being made, so too does there need to be masks made that are adapted for people who are deaf or hard of hearing."

So Lawrence and her mother got to work. According to a report from local news outlet LEX18, the duo started using bed sheets and a see-through plastic fabric to create the masks. She even took into consideration those with hearing aids and Cochlear implants, and created designs that wrap around the head and neck rather than behind the ears.

When supplies started running low, Lawrence set up a GoFundMe page to help raise funds for supplies. To date, she's raised $3,387—and any money that isn't used on supplies will go directly to Hands & Voices, a non-profit that supports the deaf and hard of hearing and their families.

Although the CDC has not yet released a statement recommending that people wear masks in their day-to-day life, Lawrence says that the deaf or hard of hearing can give her masks to their doctors to better communicate with them.

And as if Lawrence's cause couldn't get any more noble, the college senior is sending out the masks completely free of charge.

"I'm not charging anything for them because I think that if you need them, then you need them and I don't think that you should have to pay for them," Lawrence told LEX18. "So we are sending them out for free whenever we have people asking for them and if they're foreign, then maybe we'll charge shipping, but other than that they're completely free."

To order a mask, email dhhmaskproject@gmail.com. You can learn more about Lawrence's cause on her GoFundMe page.

The information in this story is accurate as of press time. However, as the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve, it's possible that some data have changed since publication. While Health is trying to keep our stories as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations for their own communities by using the CDCWHO, and their local public health department as resources.

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