(This article originally appeared in the May 2020 HLAA-TC newsletter. Written by Laura Hagemann.)
As COVID-19 has changed a lot of daily activities for everyone, surgical and cloth face masks are becoming more commonly used by the average person. Those who are deaf or hard of hearing know, a mask that covers the wearer’s mouth makes speech reading an impossible task. With the CDC recommending the wear of face masks, more people are making patterns and resources available for making face masks with clear panels to accommodate speech reading. In this article, I mention (and link) to several mask resources (both with and without clear speech reading panels).
The CDC recommends wearing face masks where social distancing practices are hard to maintain (grocery stores, etc.). The CDC also has sewing and non-sewing patterns available on their website for masks and instructions for proper cloth mask sterilization. However, these patterns don’t allow for a clear panel to accommodate speech reading. A college student in Kentucky designed masks with clear speech reading panels. Read more about her mask designs in this article. After reading about these homemade clear panel masks I searched online for more resources regarding similar masks.
More people have made tutorials and patterns available online for making masks with clear speech reading panels. Here is a video walkthrough by Emily Jones on how to make such a mask. Jones was prompted to make the speech reading masks because she is hard of hearing and had a personal need for masks that allowed for speech reading during the COVID-19 pandemic. Jones also offers a free pattern for her mask available on Google Docs.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic made surgical masks a prescient topic, HLAA-TC under the direction of HLAA-TC President Christine Morgan had purchased a number of surgical masks called “The Communicator” and made them available to chapter members to hand out to their medical or dental professionals. The mask has a clear panel that allows for easier speech reading. It was developed by Ann McIntosh, Ph.D. and received FDA approval in 2016. The clear panel on the mask is positioned to provide a clear view of the wearer’s lips and mouth. In light of recent events related to COVID-19, the HLAA-TC board has donated its stock of “The Communicator” masks to local hospitals.
Hospitals, clinics, and other essential services are always looking for mask donations. So if you are so inclined to make a mask (especially one with a clear speech reading panel) please check with area hospitals, clinics, and other essential services to see if they would want your donation.
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