By NICOLE PELLETIERE, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — A Louisiana educator is working hard to limit the restrictions mask-wearing poses for children who are hearing impaired.
Leslie Bailey has been teaching for 16 years. It’s now her seventh year as an instructional coach at Legacy Elementary School in Bossier City, Louisiana, which serves a majority of students who are hearing impaired from preschool to fourth grade.
Bailey told ABC News’ Good Morning America that children with hearing loss, including those who are deaf or hard of hearing, can struggle with understanding sign language if they’re unable to read lips.
Bailey recognized this as a problem given face coverings are now being worn in Louisiana schools. Her solution: create masks with clear, vinyl windows.
“All educators in the entire United States are going above and beyond, reviving and rethinking how education is going to look like this year,” Bailey said. “The masks’ intentions aren’t just for [people who are] hearing-impaired. It’s for the first-grade teacher teaching phonics — you want them to see your lips, but you don’t want to take their masks off.”
Bailey has designed and produced 60 masks for classrooms at Legacy to help kids who have hearing loss, their fellow classmates and their teachers. She also sells them through her Etsy shop, Magnolia Stitch Co.
She’s made 70 masks for a district in Wisconsin and offers discounts to all schools. It takes about eight hours to make 40 masks on four embroidery machines, and Bailey has five people assisting. The clear windows are shaped so a person can see the wearer’s entire mouth and smile.
“We live and breathe masks over at my house,” Bailey said. “Seeing students smile and not having their faces covered up has definitely been a bonus as well.”
One Legacy student, Baleigh Berry, is happy all her fellow classmates have the same mask. The 9-year-old was born deaf and has bilateral cochlear implants to partially restore her hearing, mom Shena Berry told GMA.
“I picked her up from school and she had the biggest smile on her face,” Berry said. “If a teacher was masked, it’d be very different for my daughter to understand what’s going on in the classroom. She’s processing background noise and other variables that the hearing impaired community struggles with.”
Berry hopes more schools become aware that masks with windows are a necessity for some children.
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.