as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare workers are desperately seeking personal protective equipment (PPE), which is in short supply. although many people have been creating reusable fabric masks, which the centers for disease control and prevention (CDC) has recommended to help slow the spread of the virus, a key group have been excluded from this movement: the deaf and hard of hearing. to help change this, ashley lawrence — a college student studying education for the deaf and hard of hearing — has designed a face mask with a clear window that allows others to see and read lips and facial expressions.

masks for the deaf
image via gofundme



‘as a college student studying education for the deaf and hard of hearing, I have a great appreciation for the ways in which the world is designed with hearing people in mind,‘ says ashley lawrence, whose GoFundMe target has already been met. ‘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. 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.’

masks for the deaf
lawrence and her mother
image via lex18



the student modified the traditional fabric mask design 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. the GoFundMe account was created as a way to offset the costs of materials and shipping.


lawrence is currently distributing the masks free of charge to anyone who needs one, whether they are currently sick or not. those who are part of the deaf or hard of hearing community who would like to request a mask are encouraged to reach out to lawrence directly at <[email protected]>.


a good first prototype? can it be improved? useless? join the discussion on designboom’s instagram, where several hundreds of people are already discussing the benefits and potential improvements of the mask!