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As the U.S. continues to panic as we struggle to combat the COVID-19 virus, paired with the national shortage of personal protective equipment, or PPE, for the country’s healthcare providers and citizens, it’s easy to look over those who are most vulnerable.

Ashley Lawrence, a 21-year-old senior at Eastern Kentucky University is making masks for the deaf and hearing impaired. Lawrence studies Education for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing so this is nothing short of a passion project. She told her local news station LEX18, “People who are profoundly deaf who use ASL as their primary mode of communication—ASL is very big on facial expressions. It’s a part of the grammar…And if half of that is gone because you’re wearing a mask, then half of what you’re saying is missed.” Though these types of mask already exist, there is also a shortage.

With simply bedsheet fabric, plastic fabric, elastic, and empathy, Lawrence and her mother have crafted a necessary essential for those that rely on lip reading.

Lawrence is also keeping in mind those who cannot wrap anything around the ears because of cochlear implants or hearing aids. She is providing an option to wrap around the head and neck.

She added, “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 will help someone out in the community.”

Lawrence is currently sending the masks out free of charge, and has set up a GoFundMe as a way to offset the costs of materials, shipping, etc. Any money raised that is not used directly for the masks at the end of the crisis will be donated to Hands & Voices, a non-profit, parent-driven organization dedicated to supporting families of children who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Donate to Ashley Lawrence’s GoFundMe here.

Or, if you or someone you love is a part of the Deaf or Hard of Hearing community and would like to request a mask, please reach out to her at dhhmaskproject@gmail.com.

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Bry'onna Mention is a digital editor at BUST and a wavvy womanist who is always ready to square up against misogynoir and respectability. She can usually be found running through the burbs with her ‘fro. Catch her on the internet at @radsadblackbry or bryonna@bust.com.

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