Dorchester sight and hearing team helps reconnect Deaf Bridport resident with family and friends during pandemic

  Posted: 04.05.21 at 12:27 by Lottie Welch

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A Dorchester team supporting those with sight and hearing difficulties has helped a Deaf man get back in touch with family and friends during the pandemic.

Millbrook Healthcare’s Sight and Hearing Team was on hand to help when John Phillips, aged 76 from Bridport, received a smartphone from Dorset Council, which has been a ‘life saver’ for him.

He was sent the phone on Christmas Eve as part of the council’s drive to help digitally connect people in need during lockdown.

By then, John - whose only method of communication is sign language - had spent nine months in lockdown isolation, had very little contact with people and was feeling very low.

With support from Millbrook Healthcare’s Sight and Hearing Team in Dorchester, John started to use his smartphone to communicate with people and it changed his life.

In the first few weeks, John was in contact with key workers who were able to stay in touch with him over Christmas and the new year.

By March, with his confidence in using the phone growing, he could reconnect with friends he had not spoken to for more than a year.

John said: “The phone has been an absolute life saver; it’s opened up a whole new world to me and I’m so grateful to have it.

“It took me a while to get to grips with it but I’m getting there.

“The best part has been contacting my friends again via WhatsApp because I had no contact with them for so long.

“I’ve been able to communicate with my oldest friend of 45 years for the first time in more than a year. We send each other videos and messages and it’s been wonderful.”

John, who was born Deaf, moved to Dorset nine years ago after he retired. Born in Lyme Regis, he had spent most of his life travelling and working across England in a variety of manual roles.

After living such a busy life, the loneliness of lockdown hit John hard. With his only way of communicating being sign language, he could not use a landline to contact people.

Now, with a smartphone, he can send very brief text messages and then connect with fellow sign-language users via video call.

“Before I had the phone, I was feeling very low,” John added, “but now I can see people’s faces again on video and have conversations with them via text and sign language. It’s changed my life.”

John is one of 50 people in Dorset who have received, or will receive, a free tablet or smartphone thanks to Dorset Council teaming up with the Good Things Foundation charity. Twenty of those devices are currently being distributed to people in the county who have learning disabilities.

Councillor Peter Wharf, Dorset Council’s deputy leader, said: “It is truly inspiring to hear stories like John’s and how digital has helped improve people’s lives.

“The Covid pandemic has shone a light on not only the importance of digital in modern life but also how transformative it can be.

“And people like John show it’s never too late to embrace new technology.”

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