A school in Sidcup has come to the aid of hundreds of deaf and hard of hearing people in Bexley, helping them communicate with others by making special hand-made face masks with windows which make the mouth visible.

Bexley Deaf Centre has said they are "grateful and proud" of how their local community and schools after teachers responded to their plea for help and managed to come up with a clever solution.

The charity, based in Slade Green, said its members, who largely rely on lip reading to follow conversations, have been left struggling to communicate in the post-Covid-19 society in which wearing masks is essential for health.

Normal face masks make communicating difficult, so the centre decided to ask Chislehurst and Sidcup Grammar School if they could try and make some specially designed with windows to meet specific needs.

The school, who have been making masks and visors throughout lockdown, stepped in to help, managing to produce masks fitted with perspex screens that allow the mouth the be visible.

Former Chemistry teacher Claire Truman has led the production line, with the masks becoming popular with the centres' service users, and the school is continuing to make more in order to meet a growing demand.

Tania Bushell, Bexley Deaf Centre CEO, said they were "so grateful" to the school for coming to their aid, add it was an "excellent example of a local community coming together to help in times of need."

"We were looking at ways in which our local hearing impaired community could adhere to current government guidelines about the wearing of face masks without compromising their communication needs.

"Many people don't realise that deaf and hard of hearing people rely heavily on lip pattern and lip reading to help them follow a conversation so they need to be able to see people's lips."

Ms Bushell said she'd researched a few different types of masks online, and found that some hearing impaired people were using special hand-made masks with perspex windows.

Knowing the centre needed to get hold of some, one of Tania's staff mentioned the grammar school were making masks and visors during lockdown, and after getting in touch, the school's curriculum leader for technology Sophie Marnham said they'd give it a go.

Ms Bushell added: "And they did! Our service users love them and the school is continuing to make them for us as there's a growing demand for them!"

"Bexley Deaf Centre is a tiny local charity which has been present in the borough for over 28 years, we get very little funding and rely on fundraising and goodwill to continue to support the 24,000 people suffering with hearing loss in Bexley, the school has done us proud!

" I would like to add that if you find yourself in a situation where you need to communicate with someone who is hearing impaired, please be patient and if need be write it down."

Ms Truman said that whilst making the masks has been quite tricky, she is already working on a new idea which will make the masks more durable and easier to wash.

The school has also provided the centre with visors for the staff and on-site students, and is continuing to work with them on new masks.