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North East ISD volunteers making face masks with ‘windows’

New masks will enable deaf or hard of hearing students to read lips

SAN ANTONIO – Many who are not deaf or hard of hearing may not realize face masks make it impossible for those who read lips to understand what is being said.

"It dawned on me that our students are going to have the same issue," said Patricia Garcia, program coordinator for the Regional Day School program in the Northeast Independent School District for the deaf, hard of hearing and the visually impaired.

Garcia said she, her parents and grandparents also had hearing loss.

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After learning that one of the students didn't want to return to class because she feared that she wouldn't understand her teacher, Garcia said she came up with the idea of making masks with a lightweight, clear vinyl window or screen over the mouth.

“They’re a little more time-consuming, but it’s not difficult to understand what the pattern is all about,” said Janice Greer DeHaven, director of the special education department for NEISD.

DeHaven said it takes 30 to 45 minutes to make the masks since extra cutting and positioning is needed for the vinyl.

Garcia said the masks are “a little warmer than others, but not terrible when it comes to fogging.” To help reduce fogging, she suggests the following: “Put some soap on the vinyl, then let it dry.”

DeHaven said the all-volunteer effort is on a deadline to make 1,000 more masks by mid-August when NEISD classes are scheduled to resume. She urges anyone who can help to email jdehav@neisd.net and include a phone number.

DeHaven said she can then provide information regarding what would be involved and answer any questions.

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