A BRITISH Sign Language interpreter is calling for companies to make PPE for deaf people.

Clare Shard from Clitheroe is the head of interpreting service at Cygnet Health Care in Bury and would like to find a UK manufacturer to develop masks for deaf people around the UK.

She says the UK deaf community has not had any updates on the coronavirus pandemic translated into BSL for them.

Mrs Shard said: “If they are to experience symptoms or contract the virus then the daily updates on how to contact healthcare providers are often inaccessible to many deaf people.

“Many deaf people are feeling isolated, without any of their usual support systems or communication support.

“There is an urgent need for UK-based manufacturers to work with the Department of Health to produce a face mask foe deaf people that conforms to EU Safety, Health and Environmental requirements.”

There are currently no identified UK manufacturers of EU regulated CE marked PPE for those hard of hearing.

Masks are worn by health care workers are not suitable as it limits the communication.

Mrs Shard said: “It is impossible to communicate effectively or accurately while wearing a moisture resistant face mask.

“For people with deafness or hearing loss, whole communities wearing face masks presents a barrier to communication.

“The deaf person may not even realise that they are being spoken to or warned of a risk to their health or safety.”

BSL is a visual language with lip-reading and facial expressions, making it important for deaf people to see their health workers’ lips and mouth.

British Sign Language Interpreters are being used in many medical settings via video remote interpreting (VRI) but for some deaf people who need face to face healthcare, this is not appropriate or accessible.

Mrs Shard said: “This is especially true for deaf people with mental health challenges, physical health problems or a learning disability that prevents them from being able to easily access information.

“If BSL Interpreters had access to transparent face masks, far more face to face consultations could take place effectively and safely.

Currently, Mrs Shard and the team at Cygnet Bury are wearing the regulation issued masks.

If deaf people need help or information about health and safety during the coronavirus pandemic, they can visit the BSL Health Access website.

Cygnet Bury is one of the largest employers of deaf professionals in a mental health setting in the UK.