TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNW) – Kansas is making sure everyone stays safe while communicating during the coronavirus pandemic.

Many deaf and hard of hearing people rely on seeing a person’s entire face while communicating, but face masks have made that nearly impossible. The Kansas Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (KCDHH) has spent $250,000 to buy and distribute clear face masks and face shields to families and caretakers.

“There’s a lot of second guessing and everything, so if it’s clear, they can see their face, they can see their intent. Which is going to solve any issues that might arise in the conversation,” explained Robert Cooper, Executive Director of the Kansas Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

The money was made possible by CARES Act funding passed by Congress earlier this year. Kansas’ SPARK Task Force allocated a portion of the funding to go to the Visible Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Distribution Program.

Cooper requested the money from the SPARK Task Force after discovering the cost of visible PPE.

“A lot of the supplies out there require you to have to order more than 100 items,” said Cooper. “So imagine it being $4 each, no one can afford $400 worth of face coverings.”

Cooper expects to be able to help 50,000 people get visible PPE through this program. Supplies are first come, first served. To apply, click here and fill out the request form.

He added this program is not only for deaf and hard of hearing people.

“We’re hoping these deaf and hard of hearing people can have these and they can share them or they can give them over to their family members or friends,” said Cooper. “We need the other person to be wearing the mask, so I can see that person. They can look at me, which doesn’t matter, I need to be able to see them.”