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BBC Radio Devon spoke to seven people who use our support services, and how these services have helped them during the coronavirus pandemic. Listen back or read the interviews here.

digital image showing three people having a conversation.

Transcription of an interview with Justine Deaf Led Service

Breakfast Show with Gordon Sparks.
Justine talks to BBC Radio Devon through a registered British Sign Language interpreter.

Justine’s interview with BBC Radio Devon March 2021 – Devon Deaf Community

Introduction from Gordon Sparks: “Now many organisations can make a difference and they really do one of these is charity Living Options Devon which empowers disabled people and members of the Deaf Community to live the life they choose. All this week we are going to be exploring how it does that and the difference it makes within our Communities especially now”.

Justine: “Hello my name is Justine, I was born Deaf and I have been working for Living Options Devon for quite some time, I have worked on lots of different projects that I have been involved with but they have all linked with the Deaf Community”.

“I work with Deaf people, most of us know each other it’s a very close community. The Deaf Community is a community that has its own language British Sign Language. English is a barrier because sign language is not the same as English so our communication is very different. Living in a hearing world that is full of things that require information to be presented in English is a barrier.”

“Part of my role at Living Options Devon is to campaign and raise awareness and educate people on the needs of the Deaf Community and just reminding them that there are people out there who use British sign language, it is an official and our mode of communication. The needs of the Deaf community can be met, it’s not that difficult it just needs some reasonable adjustments in order that we meet somewhere in the Middle with the hearing community and that communication can run smoothly”.

“Unfortunately, in current times of the coronavirus there are additional barriers, doors are closed, services are not accessible, people cannot be face-to-face anymore which is really important to Deaf people because that’s the most obvious way that we communicate.

“For example, we can’t go to our doctor’s surgery anymore, it means we need to have a phone call which Deaf people are not allowed to do, also at test sites for covid, for people to see if they have got covid, there are barriers, people are wearing PPE, they’ve got a facemask covering their faces which means that deaf people cannot lip read. Also, they will hold up a piece of card which will have a mobile number as a contact number to give you instructions, for Deaf people that’s no good in the Deaf community because that’s a huge barrier for such an important Testing Service. So there are lots of additional barriers that were not there before and that has added to the problems of the Deaf community. It has been really horrendous it really has.”

Questions: How about you? How have you been during this period of time?

Justine: “I’ve not been meeting my close friends except for remotely and I can see that my friends are struggling. There are times that I feel lonely because although you can keep in touch sometimes I feel excluded from what’s going on locally. I consider myself quite lucky I have a job I have access to interpreters and they are paid through a government scheme called access to work, which means that I can continue to do my job so I am one of the lucky ones”.

Question: What do you think would make the most difference or could actually still make the most difference?

Justine: “Having awareness, having an understanding about how deaf people communicate and accepting the community for what it is. They (Deaf people) live within mainstream society and they want to access the same thing as you do, that you take for granted”.

Closing remark Gordon Spark: That was Justine Smyth from Living Options Devon beginning our week on the work it does to make a difference to people in the community. You can find more information at

Listen to the interview with Justine here

Transcript of an interview with Colin – See Hear Centre

Breakfast Show with Gordon Sparks. Colin talks to BBC Radio Devon about the See Hear Centre

Colin speaks to BBC Radio Devon about the See Hear Centre March 2021

Introduction from Gordon Sparks: “Now on Monday on this show we talked about the impact of the pandemic on some of the local Deaf Community and the service that’s making a difference to them. Many of us will face hearing loss so today we’re focusing on the See Hear Centre in Barnstaple and the impact the pandemic is having on its work”.

Colin: “My name is Colin Brown, I’ve been involved with Living Options Devon for nearly ever since my visual impairment became a problem. I use the service for 12 years and then when I retired I became a volunteer with the See Hear Centre”.

Question: “What does the See Hear Centre do?

Colin: The See Hear Centre is a resource centre where people with disabilities in terms of sight and hearing can actually go and look and ascertain what they need before they actually put the money down and buy something.  People could come and talk through their disability their issues that they are facing and they could get time to talk to somebody about how it’s affecting their lives. I went there for magnifiers computer bits and pieces electronic equipment, you’re not going to get that from any other service apart from the See Hear Centre.

I know we’ve got the resources, you’ve got magnifiers what sort of magnifiers? what kind of hearing aids? what kind of telephone? and people could look. So it was open 5 days a week and of course, they used to visit local villages in and around North Devon with bits of equipment and people would come to them and people would see what they were doing”.

Question: So what was the impact of Covid on what the service is able to do?

Colin: “It just stopped and end of, finished, there’s no resource centre now because we couldn’t open because of covid-19 and now with the possibility of the building not existing anymore”.

Question: In terms of Covid what do you think the impact has been on the people who need your service?

“Devastating because it’s removed any opportunity they had to seek the impartial advice they needed.  You think a magnifier is magnifier, but it’s not the case, there’s many types of magnifier, some suitable for some work and some suitable for other work.  People can buy stuff that’s not suitable, and they can spend that money that they don’t need to spend because we’re not here anymore.”  

Question: So over the longer term then what is going to happen?

Colin: “Well the longer-term is that a resource which as far as I can understand was fairly unique to North Devon, is now being taken away.  People in some cases retreat into not doing things they used to do, not being able to achieve what they want to achieve, or not being able to achieve what they could achieve.  If somebody approaching visual impairment or suddenly found they have a visual impairment, without those resources they don’t know what they can do.  It is a fairly dramatic statement but it’s possible you could take away somebody’s possible future.”

Closing remark Gordon: “That’s Colin Brown of the See Hear Centre.  As Colin explained it’s one of the services making a difference to disabled people in Devon, it has been adversely affected by the pandemic.  Help and advice remain available though there’s a website very easy one to remember”.

Listen to the interview with Colin here

Transcript of an interview with Amari – Countryside Mobility

Breakfast Show with Gordon Sparks. Amari talks to BBC Radio Devon about Countryside Mobility

Amair speaks to BBC Radio Devon about the Countryside Mobility Hire Scheme March 2021

Introduction from Gordon Sparks: “Walking has made quite a difference too many of us during the pandemic, for others going out for a walk has become more challenging and that’s why we asked Living Options Devon to tell us more about its countryside mobility scheme and the impact of lockdown on those that use it”.

Amari “My name is Amari. I am a trans man and student and I have used countryside mobility a couple of times to go for walks with my family which has been lovely”.

Question: What difference does this service make for you?

Amari: “A huge difference really I haven’t been able to go for a walk in Haldon Forest or anywhere really with my family for a good couple of years since my fibromyalgia got bad.  Mum heard about countryside mobility and booked out a kind of off-road mobility scooter and it was just fantastic to be able to get back to the woods again because I really loved it there and be able to spend time with the family which had not been able to do a huge amount of since I’d been kind of limited by how far I could walk for quite a while so it’s probably the happiest I’ve been to quite a while and mum was very happy bless her She looks like she has appeared to cry ( laughs) yes it did make a huge difference”.

Question: How does it do that do you think?

“It’s just being able to access places that I wouldn’t be able to access if I was walking I struggle a lot with uneven ground now and it’s quite difficult to walk with a crutch over some routes for example and to be able to use the mobility scooter makes a huge difference I’m in a lot less pain which is so lovely and I can spend longer outside with the family and I can keep up with them which is always nice but yeah it has made a massive difference and and I could actually get outside and not be in a large amount of pain”. 

Question: And then covid came along how did that affect what you’ve been able to do and what you haven’t been able to do?

Amari “Since covid has hit it has been a lot more difficult and it’s just been a lot more limited I’ve not really left the flat in a good couple of months, I’ve been keeping inside because I don’t want to risk getting covid and getting ill, it hits disabled people quite hard from what numbers are showing.

Question: How have you coped with that?

Amari: “ I feel like I’ve been quite well adapted to lock down before it even happened and I know quite a lot of friends who have got similar disabilities, I feel the same way as well, so I feel like I’ve almost had a head start on getting used to lock down compared to a non disabled person. Luckily I’ve got a lot of friends online and I’ve got a good online network and online games which have been very nice.  Games like Animal Crossing where you can visit each other,  it’s not quite the same as walking around or catching up with your friends and family but it’s close.

Question: What would make a difference to you now, what would you most like to be able to do again?

Amari: “When it’s safe too I would hopefully have the energy to go outside for a nice walk somewhere, yeah I think being out in nature is probably the thing I miss the most of at the moment”.

Closing remark Gordon Sparks: “That was Amari with views on lockdown and life and without.  The countryside mobility scheme which is run by Living options Devon you can find out more through living options dot org with John loosemore asking the questions we are featuring different aspects of the charity and the impact of lockdown on its services and on those who use them.” Find out more at

Listen to the interview with Amari here

Listen to the interview here, about 1 hours 26 minutes in.

Transcript of an Interview with Mel – Time to Talk

Breakfast Show with Gordon Sparks. Mel talks to BBC Radio Devon about Time to Talk support service.

Mel speaks to BBC Radio Devon about Time to Talk – March 2021

Introduction from Gordon Sparks: “During the pandemic we all recognise people who have made a difference, family, friends, neighbours, even complete strangers.  We thought this morning you’d like to meet Mel.  Mell discovered Time to Talk.

Mel: “My name is Mel, I’ve been self-isolating since march last year. I had a letter through the door ‘here to help’, I spoke to a lady called Stacey and she was absolutely amazing.  I was finding it really difficult not having anybody to help me because I was incapacitated as well as being on lockdown and she put me in touch with Time to Talk.  I spoke to Gwen and it was just like talking to an old friend, she helped me by being there to talk to I suppose. 

Question: Why do you think you specifically needed Time to Talk?

“I was all on my own and I was going through a bad transition, from one place to another, I didn’t know anybody in the village, and I suppose because I was totally alone, getting over my hip replacement I just felt cut off from everything. I couldn’t drive, I couldn’t walk properly at the time, I couldn’t get my car keys and off I go.  I was just totally isolated, because my children are in Exeter and Dawlish. I just wanted, just needed somebody to talk to, because there just wasn’t anybody, there’s just nobody and I felt… I felt lost and Time to Talk were amazing.  I mean Gwen was just like having a phone call from a dear friend, we talked about everything anything, she was wonderful.

Question: Why do you think talking and that sharing time made such a difference to you?

Mel: “I guess when you’re on your own you think, and you ponder on all the stuff, and it gets lodged in your head, and you overthink things.  When there’s somebody at the end of the phone to talk to you, it takes your mind off all that stuff, you’re not going over it in your head all the time.  Having somebody to talk to that knows a bit of your background, and is there to encourage and help, takes your mind off it, basically she was just there”.

Question: “So what difference do you think Time to Talk has made to you over the period of time?

Mel: “A huge difference, I get to the point where I actually look forward to her calling, you build a friendship. I don’t think I could have gone through lockdown totally alone, and with Gwen I felt that I wasn’t totally alone, and that made all the difference to me”.

Closing Remark Gordon Sparks: “It’s a real eye-opener isn’t it from Mel, telling us about her appreciation of Time to Talk, the service run by Living options Devon which were featuring all this week, and the difference that it makes disabled people across the county.  You can find Time to Talk on their website

Listen to the interview with Mel here

Transcript of an interview with Mark and Bev – Deaf Get Active (1.26 in)

Early Breakfast Show with Gordon Sparks.

Mark and Bev talk to BBC Radio Devon

Mark and Bev speak to BBC Radio Devon about Deaf Get Active

Introduction from Gordon Sparks: “We began our week thinking about the pandemic and its impact on the Deaf Community and we continue that today as we find out more about a service which has adapted to life online, its called Deaf Get Active”. 

Mark: “Hello I’m Mark Deaf Get Active Engagement Officer, my role is to represent the Deaf Community and then encourage them to get fit and active and take part in sport 

Bev: “I’m Bev I’m a retired teacher of the Deaf.  I am Deaf myself, I’ve always loved being active and so I gravitated towards Devon’s Living Options.”

Mark: “This project has been successful in Devon. Research from the past has shown that Deaf people are less active, research has shown the health problems linked to not doing sport or lack of information and activities because of their Deafness, so we decided upon a project that would try to get Deaf people to go back to being active again. Whether it’s groups of Deaf people together or volunteering or going to park runs together, or at the same time it can be individual and going to gyms on their own”.

Bev: “As a participant I found myself doing walking tennis and touch tennis I think I couldn’t imagine not doing activities, because I just have to, it’s part of me”.

Mark: “Before the lockdown, we had a good group of over 100 people taking part in lots of different types of activities.   But unfortunately, when lockdown started we had to stop all activities, we had to have a different way to our thinking, putting out videos on our own social media pages, YouTube and videos, most of them would have sign language as well and we will put subtitles on them as well for those who are hard of hearing or Deaf people who can’t sign.  Sign language and subtitles are really important”.

Bev: “Fortunately for me, I came across some Park Yoga videos that Deaf Get Active had been organising, and it was quite good fun, and that was it I was just committed”.

Mark: “We just want to make sure that we’ve covered every sport for everybody’s needs and it’s so good for Deaf people getting fit and taking part”.

Bev: “It’s been great revisiting the Park Yoga, I am absolutely a number one fan for that.  Deaf Get Active is so important.

Mark: “We’re hoping that with the lockdown is over, we will start to come back again, we will try to encourage people to take part and that’s something I’m really looking forward to, but I can see a difficult time ahead but this is where we need projects like this Deaf Get Active, we can bring people out in sport”.

Bev: “It’s a lifeline project at this time more than ever for lots of people who are going through desperate times”.

Gordon closing remark: That was Mark and Bev giving their thoughts on the Deaf Get Active program run by Living Options Devon. Visit where you can find out more about the sign and subtitle activities on their website which will also have details about Deaf Get Active and outside sport and when they can happen again.  The series continues on Saturday breakfast with Caroline when we will be hearing more about the counselling service for disabled people.

Listen to the interview with Mark and Bev here

Transcript of an interview with Keira – Living Options Devon Counselling Service

Keira speaks to BBC Radio Devon about the Living Options Devon Counselling Service March 2021

Early Breakfast Show with Caroline Cook

Keira talks to BBC Radio Devon

Introduction by Caroline Cook: “Coming up, we’re talking about how much the effect the pandemic has had on disabled people across the county.  All this week we’ve been hearing about the work of Living Options Devon and the difference its been making by adapting its Services and making new ones too”.

Keira: “My name is Keira, I’m the counselling lead at Living Options Devon.  We’ve recently set up a new service providing accessible counselling to our service users so that clients with any kind of disability throughout Devon, so that’s a range of disabilities, that could be a physical disability, it could be sensory loss or learning disabilities as well”.

Question: So when you say accessible counselling, what do you mean by that?

Keira: “So we realised that lots of people with disabilities were having problems accessing counselling, in a physical way to start off with so lots of council rooms provided weren’t actually physically accessible for people with a disability.  So for example somebody who uses a wheelchair may not be able to go into a room, there might not be accessible toilets. So we have two fully accessible counselling rooms.  So they are all ground floor level nice accessible car parking, accessible toilets, so everything’s been thought of, it’s all designed with a disabled person in mind.

Question: But then the lockdown came so how did you adapt?

Keira: “So it was very frustrating because this service is quite new, so when we’re now working providing counselling via zoom and telephone counselling as well for those who don’t have internet access.   It’s working out okay so far, I think a lot of people with disabilities who may have mobility problems and have issues getting out and about, prefer zoom, so I think in the future going forward we will offer both. 

Question: But presumably when you work technologically on screen it’s not actually accessible to everyone?

Keira: “So not necessarily, so a client with sight loss, for example, might not want to work with me via zoom they might prefer to do that on the telephone, which is absolutely fine.  I’m completely led by what the client wants and how they choose to work”.

Question: Obviously this has been a difficult period for everyone, but are there any specific issues that you’ve encountered from the disabled community that perhaps are very specific to them?

Keira:  “Yes I think so, I think that the range of clients that we have, people from all walks of life, all ages, various disabilities, I work with people with a physical disability, sensory loss, and also people with learning disabilities.  But there does seem to be a common thread, a sense of isolation and loneliness, as well as that I think counselling enables people to move on and move forward with their lives and sort of understand how they are and their feelings and the world around them.  There’s a real sense of wanting to go out there and to move forward and get on with things, and I think this lockdown, this current situation is not helping with that, it’s providing a sort of barrier which of course disabled people face in everyday life anyway”.

Question: So what do you feel that you can actively do to help and make a difference?

Keira: “I find many people have never truly sat and been listened to before, so I think it’s quite a powerful experience to talk about yourself and your experiences and your feelings and to have someone truly be listening and to understand, it’s a really powerful thing.  I think that’s really important for people.  I think it’s important for people to feel that they’re heard and to feel that the person they’re talking to actually does understand them.”

Closing remark Caroline Cook: Thank you very much to Keira from Living Options Devon and its accessible Counselling Service. You can find out more about Living Options Devon on their website 

Listen to the interview with Keira here