Ashley Lawrence is a senior studying education for the deaf and hard of hearing at Eastern Kentucky University, so when the coronavirus pandemic began taking hold and Lawrence saw people start to volunteer to make masks, the 21-year-old got an idea: Why not make masks for the deaf community near her in Kentucky? Per CBS News, she set up the DHH Project, in which members with "no prior experience in sewing" are creating handmade masks based on the design of commercial masks made for this purpose. That is, with a portion of the front of the cloth mask cut out and replaced with a piece of plastic, so those who read lips or use American Sign Language can see the wearer's mouth or facial expressions, an important component in communicating via ASL. "This is how we stay #HealthyatHome," she writes in a Facebook post.
Lawrence says that, for now, she's making the masks for free (other than possible shipping charges for overseas orders) if anyone needs one; she can be reached at email@example.com. "I think that if you need them, then you need them, and I don't think that you should have to pay for them," she tells LEX 18. It's not clear how long she'll be able to keep up with demand, as she's already had dozens of orders come in from six states in just two days' time. Lawrence's group can also provide a tutorial and sewing pattern so others can make the masks. A GoFundMe she set up to raise money for the masks had pulled in nearly $3,400 as of Friday morning. Lawrence says any money left over after the pandemic subsides will be donated to a nonprofit that helps families of kids who are deaf or hard of hearing. (Read more uplifting news stories.)