Owning the Future

Written by: Janis McDonald, Chief Officer, deafscotland

Published: 04/07/2018

Janis shares her thoughts on the future of deaf awareness in Scotland.

With deaf awareness week last month now a distant memory, deafscotland has emerged with a new image and a refreshed strategy to seek access and equality for those affected by deafness. That week always reminds me that there are 12,500 British Sign Language users in Scotland (according to the last census in 2011). A small group within the overall one million affected by hearing loss in Scotland but a significant minority.

deafscotland (this link will take you away from our website) is modernising, rebranding to look more appealing to a more diverse section of the population and reposition itself across all forms of deafness within our four key pillars: Deaf/Deaf Sign Language users; Deafened; Deafblind and Hard of Hearing.

We hope our new image is warm, caring and friendly, respects diversity and the logo indicates connectivity and inclusiveness. It’s a big change and will take some months to complete. Please bear with us.

People affected by deafness experience different barriers that have different solutions. Barriers can be access to language (Sign or English) and/or barriers to effective communication. Boosting language skills helps, as does a number of other things: hearing loops, microphones, lip-reading skills, electronic notetaking (speech to text) to name a few.

We at deafscotland are involved in a particular piece of partnership work, developed through support from the self-management fund, which should help set a foundation for the provision of good quality information in British Sign Language (BSL). The approach is intended to be fully inclusive by generating film clips in BSL with voice over and subtitles that allows BSL users to watch, learn and then discuss matters with friends or family.

The concept of “accessible information” is not new, however, there is an appalling lack of information in BSL and we know BSL users have lower life expectancy, generally struggle with more conditions than average and have much higher than average risks of mental health problems too.

Our Partnership, supported by The ALLIANCE, See Me, Deaf Links and Deaf Action is designed to put sign language users at the centre of the development, control the priorities and participate in the making of the finished product; a series of informative film clips (this link will take you away from our website) easily available through YouTube and other means.

It is our intention that over time we will narrow the significant inequality gap, support the integration of all deaf people  in Scotland and shine a light on the “hidden disability”.


Janis is Chief Officer of deafscotland, has a background in psychiatric nursing, equalities work and community development, most recently with TSI activity prior to taking this post. She has two grown children, loves Mallorca and all types of live music.

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