NORMAN — While handing out ballots and working at a local polling place for the June elections, Guin Geyer had an idea.
With Norman’s mask mandate in effect, local residents were heading to the polls wearing masks, and Geyer wanted to be sure she could communicate with residents that were needing a ballot while still wearing her mask.
“I knew we were going to have some voters that were elderly or hard of hearing,” Geyerr said.
Geyer asked her friend, Monica Hale, if there was a way to make a mask that Geyer could wear that would help her communicate with voters who may be deaf or hard of hearing.
Hale went to work and eventually created a mask that utilizes clear shower curtain material, which was inserted around the mouth area of the mask.
With this mask, Geyer could make sure she was keeping voters safe while also ensuring they could understand her by reading her lips, if needed.
“I made a few different masks until I found one that (Geyer) said was comfortable and durable,” Hale said.
Geyer said the mask had a really positive impact on voters.
“The people at the polling place were so excited that they could see my face,” Geyer said. “It made them happy to get their questions answered.”
Geyer said people saw the mask she was wearing and asked if similar masks could be made for them. Geyer and Hale, along with Haley Hilmes, Geyer’s daughter, began making these see-through masks for people who requested them.
Recently, they launched “Read My Lips”, a local business that works to supply these new types of masks, particularly residents who are elderly, deaf or hard of hearing.
In addition to the clear shower curtain material, the masks can be customized with different patterns, Geyer said. The clear area of the mask can also be wiped down anti-fog wipes to ensure the user’s mouth remains visible.
Geyer said part of her interest in looking for other types of mask is due to anxiety and discomfort she has experienced wearing standard cloth masks. She also said her dad is hard of hearing and has experienced difficulty communicating with people who are wearing cloth masks.
“Before we started making these masks, he was saying he didn’t realize how much he needed to read people’s lips,” Geyer said. “(A lot of people) are deaf or hard of hearing, and wearing regular cloth masks can exclude them.”
Geyer, who is also a special education teacher at Western Heights Public Schools in Oklahoma City, said the masks may also be helpful for students who respond positively to seeing their teachers’ facial expressions.
Hale, who is also a local nurse, said seeing facial expressions also are beneficial for elderly residents.
“I think (the masks) also could help improve provider and patient rapport,” Hale said.
Hilmes, 15, said she plans to continue help making masks once school starts.
“I’ve enjoyed seeing how the masks are helping others, and it’s given me something to do since school’s been out,” Hilmes said.
The masks are on sale for $5 each, and the business has already received several orders, Geyer said, particular from local schools and teachers. Guier said they are able to make 10-15 masks per day.
For more information, visit the Read My Lips Window and Windowless Facemasks Facebook page or call 697-7455.
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