Southfields Veterinary Specialists announced it is training its team members in sign language and introducing see-through face masks in a bid to continue communication with deaf clients.
The Essex-based referral centre has introduced the new measures after leading deaf charities warned that the growing use of face coverings, which are compulsory in hospitals and vet practices, is causing communication difficulties among those who are deaf or face hearing loss.
Daniel Hogan, hospital director at Southfields, said the referral centre acted “swiftly” as part of its adaption to the pandemic, while it has continued to treat emergency and urgent cases during lockdown.
Hogan said: “We adapted to the Coronavirus pandemic very quickly and efficiently across the hospital and have been able to offer to support to all of our clients and patients.
“With the easing of restrictions, we are now able to welcome more clients to the hospital, however, it is clear those with hearing issues can be really affected by the use of face coverings, as they rely heavily on visual clues for effective communication.”
He added: “I am actually unilateral deaf myself, so I am already a British Sign Language level three signer and I am providing basic training to members of our team.”
Southfields has also introduced transparent face coverings for team members, which will enable lip reading.
Hogan added: “We’re aware facial expressions and lip reading are pivotal to the way we communicate, especially in what can be an emotive time for our clients as their beloved pets are given specialist medical treatment.
“We’ve brought in a range of see-through face coverings, so our clients can not only communicate via signing but also see our team members’ faces clearly as we discuss important elements of their pets’ care and treatment.”