LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) — The deaf and hard of hearing community has found it difficult to live in a reality where masks are mandatory. Many who rely on lip-reading are lost with faces completely hidden.
The owner of Lafayette wellness center, The Road Less Traveled, was inspired by her mother to create a solution.
“Momma believed that you are never fully dressed without a smile,” expressed Becky Billeaud.
Billeaud store added Clearview masks to its inventory earlier this year. They’re locally made because the store owner realized its something that could make her mother’s life easier.
When coronavirus locked down nursing homes, Becky Billeuaud noticed a new challenge to her 102-year-old mother.
Billeaud recalled, “When this all happened, I thought how on earth is she going to understand anything in the senior care home where she was with masks over their mouths?”
That’s when Billeaud had an idea. She admits “Because of that I was able to have compassion toward people that needed that assistance.”
The Clearview masks mixed Becky’s passion of interpreting and the need she heard from her friends. She hired local seamstresses who started making each mask, and they took off, selling hundreds in a matter of months.
Vanessa Magnon is an advocate for the deaf and hard of hearing. Mandated masks have made it difficult to communicate during trips to the grocery store and other necessary interactions.
“I couldn’t tell if they were talking to me. It was so confusing, but when I got the Clearview mask, I could read the lip movements. I could see the facial expressions. I was very happy,” Magnon said.
LeAnna Perez is a teacher at Louisiana School for the Deaf. She said a resource like this is vital to stay safe and be understood.
“It’s more than just ready lips,” Perez explained. “You can tell when you listen to my voice if I’m happy, sad, angry. They don’t hear that. Our face is what tells them if the speaker is angry, happy, or sad.”
The Clearview masks have been purchased outside of the deaf community as well. One example is daycare workers who wanted to alleviate children’s fears to faceless caretakers.
Even while giving others face to face interaction, Billeaud longed for when she could meet her mother apart from a weekly FaceTime call inside the nursing home.
“For five months it’s been very difficult not to be able to see my mom,” Billeaud said.
Their time together came for just a few days but ended too soon.
Ruby Bourque Mire passed away August 1 with family by her side.
She lived through the 1918 flu pandemic, the Great Depression, and 80 years of being all but deaf. Though she’s gone, her daughter feels a piece of her is still helping people across the country.
After the passing of her mom a week ago, Billeaud is renaming the masks Ruby Clearview masks in her honor saying, “She stood for people, believed in people, and wanted them to be well, so that’s probably going to become my motto over here: be well.”
For more information on Ruby Clearview masks and how to purchase one here.