When I heard there was a student in Kentucky making masks to benefit the deaf and hard of hearing, I was over the moon.

There are many misconceptions about the deaf community. For example, while growing up with a deaf mother, a lot of people asked me if I knew sign language. I actually don't. My mother was born without 75% of her hearing in both ears but wasn't raised learning sign language. She was taught to read lips.

I never learned sign language, though I'd love to someday. I always told my friends, as long as you're looking at my mom, she can communicate with you just fine. My mom can read lips from all the way across the room...Meaning, yeah, there's no secrets with her!

Scruggs and her mother, Cathy
Scruggs and her mother, Cathy

Communication is such a huge part of our society, but we take the power of our voices for granted. For some, shouting beneath a thin layer of fabric does the job just fine in the middle of this pandemic. For others, like my mom⁠, their mode of face-to-face communication has just been eliminated.

According to Denver7, "Ashley Lawrence, a senior at Eastern Kentucky University, began making coronavirus masks with a clear window to make it easier for those who communicate American Sign Language to talk to others." While this is an incredible benefit for the hard of hearing community, Lawrence's masks also help speech and language pathologists, those with autism, and so many more.

Communication and socialization is a part of who we are. So much of what goes into the social parts of our lives has been taken away: bars, movie theaters, restaurants and parks. A lot of us feel alone and isolated, and to take away another means of connection for the deaf and hard of hearing community right now is devastating. With these masks, maybe we can get a little bit of normalcy back, or at least see a smile from a stranger.

To learn more about Lawrence's masks, click here.

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