At Boston Lyric Opera, a manufacturing production for mask-wearers who are deaf

With the help of a $50,000 grant from the Boston Resiliency Fund, Boston Lyric Opera and its partners will soon start manufacturing transparent face masks tailored to the needs of those who are deaf or hard of hearing. These populations can feel excluded during the pandemic, due to the necessity of mask-wearing to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“Traditional masks with cloth fabric come with some significant downsides,” said BLO Chief Operating Officer Bradley Vernatter in a phone interview. For starters, masks block lip movements and facial expressions — which are central to the way folks with deafness communicate.

“Through doing research, we found that there was not an easy supply for individuals to purchase these transparent masks,” Vernatter added. “This changes that.”

A bulk supply of BLO’s reusable transparent masks will be sent to local organizations, like DEAF, Inc., headquartered in Allston, and the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, a state agency. Boston Lyric Opera will charge these organizations no more than 50 percent of each mask’s at-cost price of $25, Vernatter said. And a portion of masks will be set aside for donation.

As it turns out, the project benefits not only people who are deaf or hard of hearing, but
also the workers who make the masks. They’ll be crafted by five staff members at
Costume Works, the Somerville shop that clothes singers for BLO productions in normal
times. With live performance suspended indefinitely, shop workers can stay busy (and
stay employed) thanks to the grant-funded project.

Six months into the pandemic, skilled laborers like those at Costume Works are still
being redeployed into PPE production, Vernatter noted. “This is how they’re using their
expertise to provide the resources our community needs right now — and to stay afloat.”
Boston Lyric Opera’s director of production Jessica Johnson Brock modeled a mask manufactured especially for deaf and hard-of-hearing communities. COURTESY BLO.

With the help of a $50,000 grant from the Boston Resiliency Fund, Boston Lyric Opera and its partners will soon start manufacturing transparent face masks tailored to the needs of those who are deaf or hard of hearing. These populations can feel excluded during the pandemic, due to the necessity of mask-wearing to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“Traditional masks with cloth fabric come with some significant downsides,” said BLO Chief Operating Officer Bradley Vernatter in a phone interview. For starters, masks block lip movements and facial expressions — which are central to the way folks with deafness communicate.

A bulk supply of BLO’s reusable transparent masks will be sent to local organizations, like DEAF, Inc., headquartered in Allston, and the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, a state agency.   Boston Lyric Opera will charge these organizations no more than 50 percent of each mask’s at-cost price of $25, Vernatter said. And a portion of masks will be set aside for donation.

https://www.bostonglobe.com/2020/09/01/lifestyle/boston-lyric-opera-manufacturing-production-mask-wearers-who-are-deaf/?event=event12 3/4

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