Mississauga man sews specialized masks for the hard-of-hearing

Max Cucchiella's masks ensure that people are safe while the deaf community is not left behind.
By: Stewart Wiseman
June 23, 2020
Photo: CTV News Toronto

Masks have been able to reduce the spread of COVID-19, but have made communication particularly difficult for Canada's deaf community. After realizing this unaddressed issue, a Mississauga man decided to dedicate his time to sewing specialized masks to aid the hard-of-hearing. Max Cucchiella has been making masks since the pandemic began, but is now making them almost exclusively for the needs of the deaf community. Cucchiella's masks have a clear vinyl insert in the front, allowing people to see the speaker's lips through a transparent window. The mask covers the nose and mouth to avoid spreading COVID-19 while providing a window in the front for lip reading. These new masks are helping to keep the general population safe, while guaranteeing that the hard-of-hearing are not left behind.

Shirley Cassel of the Bob Rumball Home for the Deaf said that due to the widespread use of protective masks, the hard-of-hearing haven't been able to read facial expressions to know if someone is happy or sad. Cucchiella initially believed that the hard-of-hearing relied entirely on hand sign language for communication, but didn't realize that lip reading and facial expressions were key elements to the signing language. After learning of these difficulties, Cucchiella began making the specialized masks, and has donated them to Ontario organizations that help the deaf, including the Bob Rumball Home for the Deaf in Barrie, Silent Voice in Toronto, and the Ernest C. Drury School for the Deaf in Milton. Cucchiella has thus far made 5,000 specialized masks, and with requests pouring in from around the world, he hopes to increase production in the coming weeks. "When we took our faces away from them, it changed their world," said Cucchiella. "Now hopefully we can give it back."

Source: CTV News Toronto



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