A BID to supply vulnerable deaf people with tablet devices to aid communication in isolation has been granted by Cheshire West and Chester Council and The Westminster Foundation.

Deafness Support Network (DSN), who helps anyone with hearing loss or combined sight/hearing loss (deafblindness) in Cheshire and surrounding areas, entered the bid to the Covid-19 Community Response Fund 2020-21, to purchase 20 tablets and three months internet access to provide its most vulnerable service users with access to the internet who currently do not have it.

Those who will receive a table are profoundly deaf and/or have a sight loss, are elderly or suffer with poor health conditions such as diabetes, heart conditions, various lung conditions or dementia/Alzheimer’s and have been identified by the Government as being the most vulnerable to coronavirus and must be ‘shielded’ from public life for 12 weeks.

Executive operations at DSN, Gill Reeder, said: “Technology will enable a vulnerable group within our community to stay in touch with both ourselves as a service provider, plus their family and friends, to receive advice and re-assurance during this unsettling time. "As British Sign Language is their first and preferred method of communication, some profoundly deaf people have difficulty reading and understanding English.

"Therefore, they do not have access to information on Covid-19 which is being made available in newspapers, on TV, on the radio or discussed through conversational chit-chat. Our project addresses this communication barrier and will bring about the following benefits.”

The project will enable the person to do a variety of things including contact family and friends via Facetime, Skype and WhatsApp (as traditional telephone calls are not an option), accessing media for Covid-19 updates and do online shopping to address social distancing.

By way of helping with isolation, Mrs Reeder said the tablets will also help the users to engage in community conversation platforms such as Facebook and access online fitness and wellbeing apps, as well as being able to contact pharmacists for medication and contact doctors and/or emergency service staff via video call.

She added: “These benefits will prevent deterioration in mental health such as anxiety and depression and reduce the impact of isolation by being a lifeline for communication so they can see familiar faces during periods of restricted societal movement. We are so grateful to Cheshire West and Chester Council for granting us this bid and we look forward to distributing them and seeing them put to good use at this very difficult time.”