My lockdown experience

As we all face a range of restrictions over the festive period and beyond, our regular blogger Louise Goldsmith shares some of her own experiences of living in lockdown.

“The recent national lockdowns have been very challenging for me. I am Deaf and was diagnosed with depression and anxiety a few years ago and I felt anxious at the thought of being isolated during lockdown.

In an NHS blog published earlier this year, Deaf Advisor Lenka Novakova highlighted figures which show “mental health problems within the deaf community as ranging from 30 to 60%” and “that sign language users, in particular, have an increased vulnerability to mental health problems compared with the general population”.

I was lucky to be able to isolate with my partner in a rural location where there are lots of lovely walks and things to do which really helped me.

Quick tip: To help get me out and about, I used an app called ‘Borrow My Doggy’, which was a great way to push me to get outdoors and exercise!

A few times during lockdown, I needed to contact my local GP, which was difficult. The only way to contact the surgery, was to call them on the phone, which is not accessible for me!

Once I managed to contact my GP over email, I arranged for a slot to video call her. There were no captions during the call, so I had to rely on reading my doctor’s lips. This can be very difficult on a video call, especially if there is a poor internet connection or image quality.

Quick tip: Find out how you can help make video calls more accessible here.

I also found visiting the chemist challenging. The pharmacist would not lower his mask, even though he was behind a screen, to answer some questions I had. I felt frustrated and embarrassed, and had to ask my partner to help. The pharmacist then just spoke to my partner instead of attempting to communicate with me via another method.

This experience was a negative one for me and left me feeling worthless and knocked my confidence.

Plastic screens have been beneficial for some Deaf lipreaders like me, because they are clear and in most shops staff are happy to lower their masks if they are behind a screen.

Even then, it can still be challenging! One day I found that the sun shining onto an outdoor plastic screen made it difficult for me to lipread the person behind the screen.

I found the daily COVID-19 news briefings very hard to follow using subtitles, so I now rely on the BBC News app on my iPhone.

I also used technology to help keep in touch with my 91 year old Grandfather. I wasn’t able to visit him, so set up video calls with him each week. I really missed seeing him in person and often on video calls, the audio is delayed which means the speech and visuals do not match. I felt like I lost my independence and had to rely on my partner to sit next to me and relay the conversation to me.

The pandemic has impacted on me in a huge way. Being Deaf, I am used to facing communication barriers. However, these barriers have definitely increased recently.

But on a positive note, the pandemic has made me a stronger person because I am more open about my disability. I find myself explaining my communication needs to strangers, who attempt to communicate to me. The pandemic has also fueled my passion to raise more Deaf awareness and make society more aware of the problems people living with sensory loss face.”