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Receiving a smartphone saves John from a lonely lockdown

Hear about how receiving a smartphone from Dorset Council via the Everyone Connected programme changed John's life.

By Good Things Foundation · 03/06/2021

When profoundly Deaf Bridport resident John Phillips received a free smartphone from Dorset Council, he had no idea just how much it would transform his life.

The 76-year-old received the gift on Christmas Eve, as part of the council’s drive to help digitally connect people in need during lockdown.

By then John, whose only method of communication is sign language, had spent nine months in lockdown isolation, had very little contact with people and was feeling very low.

With support from Millbrook Healthcare’s Sight and Hearing team in Dorchester, John started to use his smartphone to communicate with people and it changed his life.

“It took me a while to get to grips with it but I’m getting there!”

In the first few weeks John was in contact with key workers who were able to stay in touch with him over Christmas and the new year. And by March, with his confidence in using the phone growing, he could reconnect with friends he had not spoken to for more than a year.

John said: “The phone has been an absolute life saver; it’s opened up a whole new world to me and I’m so grateful to have it.

“It took me a while to get to grips with it but I’m getting there!

“The best part has been contacting my friends again via WhatsApp because I had no contact with them for so long.

“I’ve been able to communicate with my oldest friend of 45 years for the first time in more than a year. We send each other videos and messages and it’s been wonderful.”

John, who was born Deaf, moved to Dorset nine years ago after he retired. Born in Lyme Regis, he had spent most of his life travelling and working across England in a variety of manual roles.

After living such a busy life, the loneliness of lockdown hit John hard. With his only way of communicating being sign language, he could not use a landline to contact people.

Now, with a smartphone, he can send very brief text messages and then connect with fellow sign-language users via video call.

“Before I had the phone, I was feeling very low,” he recalled.

“But now I can see people’s faces again on video and have conversations with them via text and sign language. It’s changed my life.”

John is one of 50 people in Dorset who have received, or will receive, a free tablet or smartphone thanks to Dorset Council teaming up with Good Things Foundation.

Dorset Council’s deputy leader, Cllr Peter Wharf, said: “It is truly inspiring to hear stories like John’s and how digital has helped improve people’s lives.

“The Covid pandemic has shone a light on not only the importance of digital in modern life but also how transformative it can be.

“And people like John show it’s never too late to embrace new technology.”