The initiative aims to help those who suffer from face mask-related communication issues because facial cues and the mouth aren’t visible for lip-reading, and voices become more muffled.
“Not a lot of people realize how difficult it is for the deaf and HOH community during the pandemic,” the sisters noted. “Some purposely avoid going out or shopping at certain stores as they cannot understand what staff are saying.”
The girls started their efforts in July 2020 at their local Trader Joe’s in Forest Hills, and have been receiving a lot of positive feedback from staff and customers.
Now, when you walk into the Metropolitan Avenue store, you will see communication boards at every checkout lane. The girls also retrofitted 17 face masks into clear panel masks and also made seven new masks for the staff.
They also provided information and resources on training staff to accommodate deaf and HOH individuals.
The girls’ have since made and donated about 80 clear panel masks with 40 customized communication boards to other businesses in Forest Hills, such as the local post office, CVS Pharmacy, Aigner Chocolates, Kweller Prep, Arbitman Orthodontics, Kids Only Dental, House of Playful Souls, and 112th Precinct.
They plan to reach out to more local businesses in Forest Hills and spread the initiative to other communities. Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce has also been helping the girls spread the word about the initiative to reach more stores.
Maspeth Federal Savings Bank donated $250 a month ago to help fund materials for the project, allowing more businesses to be reached.
“We hope others will visit our website and use the resources and information to make their own clear panel masks and customized communication boards,” the sisters said. “We also have a link and encourage businesses to learn the basic most commonly used customer ASL signage.”
The girls are distributing the masks only to businesses in Forest Hills, Rego Park and Kew Gardens upon request, but businesses in other neighborhoods can arrange to pick up the masks. You can place a request at by clicking here.