An Isle of Wight A and E assistant, who has lived with hearing problems since she was a toddler, is on a mission to teach medical colleagues sign language, as she navigates 'the new normal.'

The government has just announced plans to make the wearing of face coverings compulsory in shops, to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

But for lip reader Pippa Abbott, who works on the Covid-19 frontline at St Mary's Hospital in Newport, that means yet another new challenge to overcome.

As a child, she had suspected meningitis, which had a permanent impact on her hearing.

She says sign language was her first language, but she has since become dependent on lip reading - an impossible task when everyone is wearing a mask.

Face coverings must be worn on public transport and at doctor and hospital appointments and they will be required in shops too, from July 24.

Isle of Wight County Press:

Pippa said: "Since we've started wearing the masks in the hospital's clinical areas, I'm finding it very difficult.

"I've been teaching my colleagues how to do basic sign language, in order for me to do my job.

"If they need me to do some bloods, I do the sign.

"I've introduced communication cards for patients. They've got a face on them and show whether someone is hot or cold. There's one with the pain scale on it, too.

"A patient can point to it and so can we.

"I wear a badge at work. It says, 'I'm a lip reader. Please face me' and that helps with awareness.

"Luckily, I've got a fantastic team. They are thirsty for learning sign language. We've had a lot of fun doing it. They've been so supportive and willing to learn."

At home, Pippa is wearing a homemade mask with a transparent centre square, which she made herself.

It means people can see her smiling - and highlights the issues she, and others, are facing.

There are similar items available online - for a cost.

Pippa says charities have told her that they are trying to source funding to make them available to health workers.

Care home staff and residents, and people with disabilities, are among those who would benefit, she says.

Pippa told the County Press: "When hearing people are wearing a mask, their lives haven't changed that much.

"Some are noticing the difference though. The majority of people don't realise they can read lips and they're finding it a bit more difficult.

"Now that masks are compulsory in shops too, I can see that people who are already struggling are going to feel isolated and not want to go out."

Pippa is urging Islanders to be patient and understanding when communicating with those facing extra challenges.

Deaf people, the elderly, disabled Islanders, and autistic children are among those worst affected by the changes and although the government's new rules allow for some exemptions, communication is still hard when everyone else's faces are covered up.

Isle of Wight County Press:

Pippa is facing her challenge head on: "It's been an overwhelming experience. I won't stop - I will keep going."

"My sign language has come back again and it's brought me back to where I used to be. I'm Philippa again!

"Sign language was my first language - but you move on. In the last two or three months I've had to teach myself to sign again.

"My message is, please be patient and learn some sign language! Learn more about how difficult it is for people who are struggling."