As an organisation needing to work face-to-face with clients, the Jewish Deaf Association has had to operate creatively to assist members during the crisis.
“For those with hearing loss, being with people is obviously what’s best. We’ve had to really think outside of the box,” explained JDA executive director Sue Cipin.
Social distancing and the increased use of face masks has made it more difficult for the deaf to communicate.
“We’ve had clients who have needed to go to hospital and we’ve been supporting them so they can carry on communicating with doctors. We normally would be there with them but we can’t do that at the moment.”
After cases where lip-readers were unable to understand what was being said at key medical consultations because of face-coverings, the JDA has been “linking in via FaceTime” on important discussions and translating for its members, Ms Cipin reported.
See-through masks have been suggested as a solution to the problem but the NHS has yet to approve their use in clinical settings.
The JDA’s new social media campaign, launched on Deaf Awareness Week, is intended to raise awareness of its work.
Loneliness has become a “massive issue” for the deaf during the lockdown and the charity is promoting virtual communities which have brought members and supporters together over Zoom.
It is hosting sign-language discussion groups, entertainment and lip-reading classes — and also posting out games and hobby materials to those without access to technology.
“We are supporting directly around 300 people with around 60 volunteers,” Ms Cipin said.
The JDA is further offering help with shopping for those in isolation, and “door-to-door” hearing aid repairs by its technicians, with appropriate social distancing.
Like many communal charities, the JDA has experienced a significant drop in revenue because of the crisis.
“Income is down — way down — and we are really having to be very careful with our resources,” Ms Cipin said.
The JDA is receiving funding from Barnet Council and is applying for emergency support from the government. But the future is uncertain.
“Everything is a real struggle. Financially, we are going to have to work really hard this year to keep going.
“We need people’s help and hope they will come forward. That is why the social media campaign is of greater importance this year than ever before,” she stressed.
“Deaf Awareness Week was an opportunity we really grabbed to raise awareness about the fact we are doing so much.
“If we didn’t do what we are doing, deaf people would be in crisis.”