Living with sensory impairment during the COVID-19 crisis

Navigating the current COVID-19 crisis can be confusing and stressful for everyone, and people with a sensory impairment may find it difficult to find information and support.

We have compiled a list of resources that we hope will be useful in these unprecedented times.

Deaf people and people with hearing loss

The City of Edinburgh Council have a COVID-19 update in BSL on their main COVID-19 information page. They have also developed a range of BSL videos including Council service updates, financial support, and support for people at risk of harm or who are shielding.

Deaf Action information page. Includes information in British Sign Language (BSL) from the Scottish Government, UK Government and Deaf Action service updates.

NHS Inform has a (BSL) video showing steps you can take to help avoid infection from coronavirus (COVID-19) and advice on self-isolation.

There is currently a special COVID-19 service in operation at the NHS Lothian Edinburgh Audiology Clinic. Visit the City of Edinburgh Council website for more information.

The Scottish Government have made a short video to help explain why some people are not wearing a face covering. Watch the video on Twitter.

People with sight loss

RNIB are currently providing rehabilitation/mobility services, and social work services by phone and visiting on an emergency basis. You can contact them by calling  0131 652 3140 Monday to Friday 9am – 12pm.

RNIB Helpline. You can call 0303 123 9999 or email The helpline is open 8am-8pm on weekdays, and 9am-5pm at weekends.

Covid-19: Five ways RNIB services can help. A helpful summary of the ways that RNIB can help you during the COVID-19 outbreak.

How to prepare for your eye clinic appointment during COVID-19. A useful guide from RNIB.

Covid-19 information in audio format. Listen to the latest coronavirus guidance from NHS Scotland and the Scottish Government, including social distancing and stay at home advice.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for those providing guide support. Advice for those who provide guide support for people with sight loss or mobility or other impairments.

Deafblind people

Deafblind Scotland is offering one to one support and regular accessible briefings about Coronavirus. You can e-mail for further information.

If you need more general help and information about COVID-19, visit this page.

Supporting someone with a sensory impairment

We have compiled some information and advice below to help support someone with a sensory impairment during the pandemic

National Guidelines

NHS 24 and the Scottish Government have produced guidance for Health and Social Care staff to help them communicate with people with sensory impairment during the COVID-19 pandemic. This document was written by a coalition of organisations working with people with sensory impairments.

Download the guidance.

Watch the filmed version. This includes a BSL translation and subtitles.

Booking a British Sign Language interpreter

NHS Lothian staff can book a BSL interpreter through the NHS Lothian intranet or by phoning 0131 536 2020 and choosing option five. You can also email enquiries to

City of Edinburgh Council staff can book a BSL interpreter by e-mailing the Interpretation and Translation Service – The service is currently unable to take any bookings over the phone.

Personal listeners

Personal listeners are great for improving communication with people with hearing loss, particularly people who rely on lipreading and can’t due to staff use of masks. All Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership staff, and staff working in NHS Lothian acute sites in Edinburgh can borrow a personal listener from NHS Lothian Audiology by e-mailing and marking the email for the attention of Denise Rennex, or calling 0131 536 1637.

Hearing aid batteries

You can contact NHS Lothian Audiology if you urgently need new batteries for an inpatient’s hearing aids by e-mailing or calling 0131 536 1637.

Video resources

Ideas for Ears have created a video that provides essential information about the problems that arise on phone and video calls and how to fix them. There is also a handy summary sheet to use alongside the video.

For information and advice for members of the public with sensory impairment, including service updates, visit this pag