#DeafDigitalConnect Blog: Are the deaf community really engaged when in comes to Local Government digital policy?

When broader digital policy is written are the deaf community really engaged? I think it’s fair to say not really but it’s also important to recognise it is sometimes a hard group to reach and interact with, it mostly comes down to skill sets and above all capacity.

I know and understand this myself, I have a family member who is profoundly deaf so in my youth so I learned a little BSL and gathered a bit of knowledge about the culture, it even led me to working for deaf charities in priovers role supporting people.

It’s very easy for the deaf community to fall into social isolation, and it’s mostly due to communication. Hearing people lack the confidence to approach the deaf community and are hard of hearing people struggle with non deaf people for obvious reasons.

That is why we in conjunction with Sandwell Deaf Community Association and Sandwell Council we held an event which opened debate around the facts of social isolation in the deaf community, how it affects participants in their own words and what they would like to see change.

I’ve also been a passionate activist for the deaf community so I was delighted this event came around and I could lead on it.

I’m not going to talk about the hackathon in this blog because you can read the full report here, and if you work with the deaf community or you are a Council Officer and looking for a way to engage deaf people in your area we have turned the workshop into a downloadable toolkit, there is even a manuscript, all you need to do is reach out to your local deaf centre to organise interpreters, you can download that here.

After the Deaf Digital Hackathon in West Bromwich where there were a few things that became evidently clear, not just locally but nationally there is very much a gap within society that has quite openly excluded deaf people. But there is also something else that came to light, and this is something that will definitely put these people within a fighting chance. They are a noisy lot and with the right tools could become far noisier.

Society has often bunched similar people together, and just because all these people share a sensory disability, doesn’t mean all the same things are important to them. With this Hackathon the different ages and genders of the participants showed what is important to them and not two were directly the same. But one thing that did shine through is the lack of access to a multitude of services and companies in this digital age, still requiring a person who can fluently speak English via a phone. Which not only restricts a deaf person but other disabilities and mental health issues.

If I could offer anybody a simple piece of advice when working with a multicultural society with a mixture of abilities and disabilities from a mass array of different backgrounds, and that is know your audience, take the time to learn a culture and a bit of language would put you ahead of your competitors.

There seems to be a real lack of understanding of deaf culture and language use, with participants suggesting local councils prioritising other languages and cultures with very little to none towards Deaf. This is something that needs to change if so as this will ostracise a group of people further that long term could become a bigger financial hit as problems progress and aren’t dealt with at an early stage.

If the hackathon achieved nothing else it may very well have created a small army of community journalists and activists ready to start the fight - remember, if you would like to run the workshop yourself, please do, the more engagement the better and it’s totally free, all I ask is just use the #DeafDigitalConnect so we can see what you are up to, once again, download link is here.