Greenpoint woman makes transparent masks to help the hard-of-hearing lip-read

clear mask
Stephanie Samperi-González started making the clear masks inspired by one of her hearing-impaired family members.
Stephanie Samperi-González

A Greenpoint woman has started making transparent face masks to help the hard of hearing who rely on reading lips obscured by more traditional face coverings amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Somebody who can’t hear well, a big part of life is reading lips,” said Stephanie Samperi-González.

The creative mask-maker was inspired by her brother-in-law, who wears a hearing aid and has used lip-reading his whole life — until Brooklynites started donning face coverings to stem the spread of the virus, and he began having difficulty knowing what people were saying.

“He gets through life perfectly, and all of a sudden after his whole life this new struggle happens because he can’t read lips,” Samperi-González said.

The mother-of-three and her husband have been producing personal protective equipment out of their home since the viral outbreak hit the city in March — with her sewing the masks and her husband making face shields using a 3D printer he built years ago. 

The pair then donates the masks to Maimonides Medical Center and the donation program NYC Makes PPE, which has helped construct and deliver nearly 50,000 masks, gloves, and other medical equipment.

Samperi-González heard about people making clear masks for the hearing-impaired on the internet, so the resourceful seamstress ordered plastic by the yard and began making the nifty coverings — which feature a transparent window-like piece over the mouth.

Some companies offer professionally-made masks with windows, but inventive people in other states and countries have started making their own from home.

The plastic Samperi-González uses is a thin clear vinyl and she ensures to still make the surrounding part out of regular cotton, and makes the masks in a way so they stick out from the face making them still breathable.

She’s given several to her in-law, who can then provide them to the people he most often interacts with.

The do-gooder also offered her masks on social media in a north Brooklyn Facebook group for neighbors free of charge.

Beyond the masks helping people who need to read lips, they also allow folks to see facial expressions again in the age of the “smize,” and she’s already gotten a request from a daycare center, because the workers there wanted to allow the kids to see people’s smiles.

“It’s so strange these days, walking around and you can’t even see someone’s smile on the face,” she said.