TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - Life as we know it right now includes wearing a face mask. While communicating with something covering your mouth can be hard for anyone, it's a serious problem for those in the deaf community.
Thankfully, there is a creative solution, a face mask that includes a clear mouth or window. A local seamstress who is deaf is creating them.
"Klodia's Face Masks" is a Facebook page for a seamstress in Dundee, Michigan. During the pandemic, she's been working around the clock to sew hundreds of masks.
So many, in fact, there's even a waiting list. Her specialty is creating face coverings with a clear mouth, which have been vital to helping those with hearing loss communicate in our current world.
"She is very proud of the work she's doing. She wants to help people and she wants to help doctors as well with deaf patients in the hospital at the moment, so doctors can actually get some of these too," said Shannon Seger. She's the director of the Deaf Services Center of NWO.
Seger is also a customer and friend of Klodia.
"The clear masks definitely benefit, especially if the hearing people also use it. That's the biggest thing, because if i wear it, it really doesn't have a benefit if I can't see your face," she said.
Understanding facial expressions is critical for the millions of people who experience some form of hearing loss.
"You can actually only lip read about 30 percent of English anyway, but you're really reading most of the expression between the specific words," said Seger.
Desiree Raub is a nationally certified American Sign Language interpreter. When someone is wearing a mask without a clear window, for a deaf person, it's incredibly frustrating.
"It be like reading a book with every third word available to be seen," said Raub.
"I would absolutely lose everything. I wouldn't be able to understand a thing you were saying," said Seger.
Widespread coronavirus struggles such as filing for unemployment and telehealth have been that much harder for the deaf community who are battling a language barrier. For people with hearing loss, video communication has been a go-to for years. And now that Zoom and other forms of video conferencing have increasingly grown in popularity, the features are improving.
"It's improving the quality. They're starting to add captioning and different things like that and that's super helpful," said Seger.
Seger expects the demand for clear mouth face coverings to skyrocket come fall when students head back to school.