student creates transparent masks for the deaf and hard of hearing community

student creates transparent masks for the deaf and hard of hearing community

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!


  • Just today I had a HOH patient, and I was wondering if he is used to reading lips. These days patients and nurses are both wearing masks! What a fantastic invention!!

    Christy DeFontes RN
  • A brilliant idea. The drawback for myself is that I am so reliant on lip reading that every single person I come into contact with in my daily life would need to wear one and I can’t see that happening. If mask wearing becomes the norm then a huge part of the population will have significant communication problems and be quite isolated in society.

    Sandra Wilkes
  • If the inside of the mask is treated with a hydrophobic coating (think something like rain-x) the window wouldn’t fog nearly as bad. It’s basically the same thing that is done to the inside of a scuba mask to keep it from fogging.

  • Umm… are they holding their breath? If the mask is properly fitted that clear plastic window’s gonna fog over and stay fogged over.

  • these are actually brilliant x I have hearing aids in both ears after having surgery on both ears x I work for the NHS on the wards and it is becoming a massive struggle for me to be able to communicate with staff and patients due to having to wear masks all shift x

    Deanna Potter
  • Wonderful idea for hard of hearing. My granddaughter was hospitalized the other day and my daughter who was hard of hearing could not understand what others were talking and I had to remove my mask and explain to her. Wish you all success in this wonderful, thoughtful endeavour.

    Sonali Dias
  • How can you avoid restricted visibility from condensation???

  • Absolutely super idea!

    Being hard of hearing myself, I have really struggled to undertand what people with normal masks have been trying to say to me recently at supermarkets and the doctor’s surgery. Never realised before just how dependent I was on being able to lip read.

    I assume that they are only intended for health care workers attending to the deaf etc.. If so, maybe this should be made clear, as one mask per deaf or hard of hearing person, whilst very thoughtful, would not work because we would need one for every one of our contacts.

    Would also be useful to point out in which country Ashley is based and/or where she can make them available.

  • I really believe this is a wonderful idea well done

    Julie Bailey
  • Cool

    Brenda Pedraza

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