College Student Makes Masks For The Deaf & Hard Of Hearing

We are all uncomfortable with boredom, but our minds get highly creative when we are bored. Boredom can help us achieve more, researchers say, and it often gives birth to the best ideas!

During these challenging times, we are often frustrated that we have to stay at home, but look on the bright side- we all need seclusion occasionally, and this “spacing out” and clearing the head might turn out to be beneficial for you.

Social distancing measures locked Ashley Lawrence, a college senior from Versailles, Kentucky, inside her home too.

While being bored, she got a fantastic idea!

These days, personal protective equipment, including N95 surgical masks, is in high demand. These face masks, if properly fitted, can filter out 95% of airborne particles.

Yet, they might be not that useful for deaf and hearing-impaired people, who mainly rely on reading lips as a way of communicating, as they are opaque.

Lawrence studies education for the deaf and hard of hearing at Eastern Kentucky University, but she is currently doing her student teaching from home.

She explains:

“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?

I felt like there was a huge population that was being looked over.  

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 mentioned the idea to create a surgical mask that allows others to view the wearer’s mouth to her mother, and they got crafty with items they already had at home, bedsheets, plastic fabric, and elastic.

Ashley Lawrence (left) and her mother, wearing the masks they designed for deaf and hard of hearing people

They craft a few different kinds of masks, for people with cochlear implants and hearing aids, and “some that have around the head and around the neck.”

Lawrence explains that their masks are designed  “for anyone who uses speech reading, lip reading, anybody like that”, including people who are” profoundly deaf and use ASL as their primary mode of communication”.

People in six states have already ordered dozens of masks, and she sends them completely free of charge. Yet, she adds that for people outside the U.S. she might charge shipping only.

Those in need can order one by emailing her at

Lawrence has launched a GoFundMe page, and in the description of the project, Lawrence wrote:

“Paper masks with clear pieces over the mouth already exist, but like the regular surgical masks, they are in short supply during this crisis. So I have modified the fabric mask pattern to be suitable for those who lip read or who rely on the facial expressions used when communicating in ASL to understand meaning and intention.”

After she managed to raise over $3,000 toward the goal, she closed her fundraiser to new donations.

The 21-year-old explained that she plans to use the funds to cover the material and shipping costs, and any leftover money will be donated to the non-profit Hands and Voices, which supports families with deaf or hard of hearing children.

Lawrence pointed out that now, it is time to help each other:

“The biggest thing during this time is if you’re fine if you’re at home and you’re not working, do something for someone else that will make you feel good and help someone out in the community.”