Colorado Springs artist helps deaf and hard of hearing community with masks

Published: Sep. 16, 2020 at 7:46 AM MDT
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - While many local businesses have taken a hit from the pandemic, one local entrepreneur has found creativity during trying times which resulted in helping people with disabilities.

Katherine Frabbiele left her job in February to pursue becoming a travel agent. One month later, the pandemic hit the United States, putting travel plans on hold. Frabbiele was without work, and picked up the new hobby of sewing face masks in her free time. When she tried sewing a piece of flexible plastic into the mask making it transparent over the mouth, she took a picture of it and posted it on Facebook.

“Some people were like, ‘Oh my gosh I want one,' so I was like, maybe I’m onto something here.  Maybe there is a need out there that I had no idea about,” said Frabbiele.

She learned quickly there was a need. The transparent front of the mask allows for lip reading, an essential part of communication for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. While she hopes her masks help that community, Frabbiele will fill an order for anyone who wants one of her masks.

“A lot of teachers have reached out, speech therapists, people in customer service, people who want to wear their lipstick that they just bought a new color of and now don’t want to cover it up with a mask.”

They’re sold at Eclectic Co. downtown Colorado Springs. The boutique’s owner, Peri Bolts, says the masks catch many eyes.

“People always in passing will comment on it, like ‘Oh that’s cute,’ and it’s fun to let them know that it’s actually less about being cute and more about being functional," Bolts said. “It’s really cool to educate them.”

Frabbiele has not had a medical professional review the mask, but she says the plastic is less permeable than fabric. Also, it’s cloth parts are made of 2 layers of cotton fabric.

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