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The Clarke Community Shows Up: Jake and Patrick deHahn

3 min read

So many members of the Clarke community have been making an incredible impact during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are eager to share some of their stories and celebrate their indispensable work, both inside and outside the home.

From left, Jake and Patrick deHahn, brothers and Clarke alumni. 

Jake and Patrick deHahn, Clarke Alumni Brothers, Founders of accessiblemasks.org

“Even after this global pandemic subsides,” says Jake deHahn, Clarke alumnus, designer and accessibility advocate, “masks will become more socially acceptable when people are feeling sick and if accessiblemasks.org can have a lasting impact on encouraging transparent face coverings… I’ve done my part.”

Even though brothers Patrick, 29, and Jake, 24, live on opposite sides of the country, they remain in close contact. When the pandemic set in, they talked about their similar experiences being deaf and wearing masks, and they quickly developed an idea.

“The moment masks became mandatory,” says Jake, “I became anxious of going out and preferred making my own rather than purchasing a fully covered mask.” As a recent graduate of Syracuse University’s School of Design, and now living in San Francisco, California, Jake is passionate about accessible design and user experience.

“Even after this global pandemic subsides,” says Jake deHahn, Clarke alumnus, designer and accessibility advocate, “masks will become more socially acceptable when people are feeling sick and if accessiblemasks.org can have a lasting impact on encouraging transparent face coverings… I’ve done my part.”

“Within UX/UI [user experience/user interface] and branding, accessibility and universal design are either overlooked or ‘too daunting’ to accomplish,” says Jake. “I aim to squash those preconceived notions and prove how accessibility can easily be the norm.” 

At the time, Patrick, a freelance journalist, was also absorbed in this issue, writing about deaf accessibility during the pandemic for Quartz, an online news publication. Through his research, he found that awareness about accessibility during the pandemic was sorely lacking, but it became truly unavoidable in his daily life in Brooklyn, New York. On Twitter, Patrick shared his experiences voting and getting tested for COVID-19 as a person who is deaf. In both situations, he was in noisy settings, interacting with individuals whose mouths were fully covered, without clear guidance on what to expect. 

“Imagine first the anxiety of simply getting a COVID-19 test,” he posted, “and then having to battle understanding masked individuals in a noisy space as a deaf person on top of that. Everyone in there was patient and understanding, but it was a lot.” 

“Clarke prepared me with the tools to stand up for myself in mainstream education or any situation,” says Patrick deHahn, Clarke alumnus and freelance journalist living in Brooklyn, New York.

While chatting about their experiences, Jake and Patrick agreed that it would be ideal to have a platform that could serve as a resource for accessible masks and also raise awareness about the need for accessible design. They discovered that the domain name accessiblemasks.org was available. 

“We thought it was best to build a one-stop resource for people to learn about why they need to wear accessible masks, and then easily purchase masks according to their needs,” Patrick says.

“I hope that accessiblemasks.org becomes widely known and a reliable resource for the deaf and hard of hearing,” adds Jake, “but more importantly for the hearing population. Even after this global pandemic subsides, masks will become more socially acceptable when people are feeling sick and if accessiblemasks.org can have a lasting impact on encouraging transparent face coverings… I’ve done my part.”

Reflecting on their shared drive to raise awareness about accessibility issues and serve as advocates in their communities, Jake and Patrick think back to their time at Clarke. Both attended Clarke Northampton, receiving Clarke’s Mainstream Services after they transitioned to mainstream classrooms, and through high school.

“Not only did I develop my speech and language skills [there],” says Patrick, “Clarke prepared me with the tools to stand up for myself in mainstream education or any situation. I remember the middle school mainstream classes we had, where we learned about what kind of services there were for us. I left Clarke confident, knowing how to be an advocate. I also left with many friends I still keep in touch with today.”

“Through Clarke’s mainstream program, my family’s endless support, and my personal determination, I have set out to normalize accessibility,” adds Jake.

View the full Clarke Community Shows Up story as a PDF.

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