Marion girl solves COVID19’s communication challenge for the hearing impaired with adapted mask

17-year-old Sabryna Richards has donated thousands of masks to medical facilities and individuals
Updated: May. 13, 2020 at 6:49 PM CDT
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MARION, Il. (KFVS) - Illinoisans are required to wear masks or facial coverings in public, but people with a hearing impairment have challenges understanding what people are saying with the mask on.

Sabryna Richards is a junior at Marion High School. The 17-year-old is using her talents to make thousands of special masks for those who need them.

“These are the communication mask," Richards said pointing to a finished mask. "So deaf people or hard of hearing can see the lip.”

Richards has created a solution for people like her, she said.

Her mother, Amy Richards, said Sabryna is hard of hearing, but she has learned how to communicate by reading lips. She does not need sign language, but does need extra support.

“Sabrina was born with a condition where her brain did not recognize sounds,” her mother tried to explain. “It has developed over time, different parts of her brain have activated.”

Every day, Sabryna and her mother send out donations of her adapted mask, reaching more than 28 states.

Recently, she’s had request from an audiology group of Carbondale, Marion Diagnostics, and other medical facilities.

Sabryna said it’s her dream to be a fashion designer. “It’s been my dream for a while, since a junior year in high school,” she said.

Sabryna’s grandmother also sews. Richards said her daughter learned sewing from a Life class in school.

“I am beyond proud of her," Sabryna’s mother said. "I’m like she has done an amazing sticking with this.”

“It’s not disabilities, it’s different abilities," Richards said. “She’s taking her skills that she can do and her strengths and she has taken advantage of them.”

Sabryna said she will continue to bring solutions to those in need and continue to turn her strengths in to something useful for people. They are working on an adaptive hoodie next.

In addition, she is hoping to secure an internship at a local company where she hone her craft.

“To help people and to get my name out there and I also want people can help each other," Sabryna said.

Sabryna made thousands of mask for free, but she is accepting donations.

Interested in ordering a mask or donating, visit her Facebook Page.

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