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College student makes masks for the deaf & hard of hearing

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Posted at 1:51 PM, Mar 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-06 14:35:10-04

WOODFORD COUNTY, Ky. (LEX 18) — A college senior from Versailles put her stir-craziness to good use with a project that will help the deaf and hard of hearing community.

"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?" explained 21-year-old Ashley Lawrence.

Lawrence is a senior studying education for the deaf and hard of hearing at Eastern Kentucky University. Due to the virus, she is living back at home and doing her student teaching from home.

"I felt like there was a huge population that was being looked over," Lawrence said. "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."

After a conversation with her mom, they put their craft skills to work.

Ashley Lawrence (left) poses with her mother while they both wear a mask made for the deaf and hard of hearing community.

"We started out making them with bed sheets 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 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."

With her mission centered around the deaf and hard of hearing community, she is going the extra mile.

"We're trying different things to 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."

She explained the necessity for the plastic window on the masks is why she started this project in the first place.

"For anyone who uses speech reading, lip reading, anybody like that," Lawrence said about the purpose of the masks. "And people who are profoundly deaf who use ASL as their primary mode of communication. ASL is very big on facial expressions and it is part of the grammar. So I don't know if you have seen Virginia Moore on Andy Beshear's things at five o'clock, but she's very emotive, and if half of that is gone because you're wearing a mask then half of what you're saying is being missed, so even if it's not physically talking and just using ASL, then you need to have that kind of access."

In less than two days, Lawrence already had dozens of orders from six states. To order one of Lawrence's masks, reach out to her at dhhmaskproject@gmail.com.

"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 said. "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."

Those who would like to help Lawrence with the cost of materials and shipping, she is accepting donations on her GoFundMe page.