06 May Use Tech for Good This Deaf Awareness Week
This week, the 3rd to the 9th of May, is Deaf Awareness Week, when members of the Deaf community come together to raise the profile of deafness, the beauty of Deaf culture, and the needs that 1 in 6 people (who are Deaf or hard of hearing) in the UK have. We are challenging you to examine your relationship with technology and redefine your phone as a tool rather than companion. Use tech for good.
Many of you may have found this article by doom-scrolling, after a year of pandemic living it has been very hard to find the joy in our online existence. So, we have been trying to think of ways to reset our relationship with technology. We want technology to bring us joy, and to be able to make a difference through our use of it. After much pondering, we arrived at the conclusion that education and activism are the best ways to enable us to use digital for good in the future. Deaf Awareness Week is the perfect example of such a time when technology can help us learn and grow online- in a positive way.
One of the most useful functions technology can provide is that of translation. Many Deaf people in the UK use British Sign Language but unfortunately very few hearing people do, meaning that Deaf people often have difficulties communicating and navigating the hearing world. Simply downloading Sign BSL could be the difference between facilitating communication and a language barrier. If you work in service, or in a people-facing role then the app could be even more important in your daily life. Using the search function you can slowly learn how to speak BSL, or just to get your point across in the moment, all without the addictive qualities of social media.
BSL Act Now Campaign
A more obvious way to use digital for good is to share and advocate for Deaf issues. A prescient concern of the Deaf community is the BSL Act which is currently been proposed as a Private Members Bill in Parliament. If it were passed this bill would afford Deaf BSL users the same privileges and protections given to Scots Gaelic and Welsh speakers. The current provisions only support BSL users under the 2003 Equalities Act and this protection is patchy at best. So, why not use your platform, however small, to advocate for the govt. to take this bill seriously and support BSL users throughout the UK.
The Deaf community has gained more publicity than usual during the COVID pandemic due to campaigns to use clear masks in order to help lip-reading and to allow some Deaf people who rely on lip-reading to communicate more clearly. COVID has also impacted access to services for many Deaf people who cannot use phone lines for appointments and are suffering due to a chronic lack of interpreters. So, we suggest a final way to reset your relationship with technology to use it as a tool rather the crutch would be to review your the accessibility of your business, school, or even your own activity online. Do you add subtitles when you post video? Is there an option for meetings with interpreters? Could your online presentation put Deaf users off from availing themselves of your service?
All of these tips are designed to help you refocus technology as a tool in our ongoing attempt to create a healthier balance with our screens and use tech for good. However, each step towards that healthier balance does not have to be solely self-focused, perhaps even externalising our goals, through aiming to support others, can help us thrive online.