Right Design for Communication

Written by: Janis McDonald, Chief Executive, deafscotland

Published: 19/04/2021

Find out how deafscotland adapted their activity during COVID-19 and are now on the road to transition as part of The Scottish Sensory Hub.

Just over a year ago, deafscotland had to cancel its annual conference “Right Design for Communication” and focus its work on the COVID-19 pandemic response. We quickly called it the “communication virus” as our understanding of the virus deepened and its impact broadened. The virus itself attacked people’s very breath and ability to speak. A fundamental part of being human.

The speedy onset of mitigating factors such as keeping a physical distance and using face coverings challenged people affected by deafness and others with communication barriers. It heightened existing isolation, loneliness, fear and anxiety. This worsened the risks for people already badly affected by poor mental health.

While we rapidly moved away from our planned work to focus on partnership support to public bodies and our membership, working on guidance and exemptions to assist our people, we also welcomed the emphasis on the quality, breadth and content of communications that emerged through the review process. Through regular survey work we shared best practice and new learning.

Surprisingly, all the learning from the phases of the pandemic have led us back to where we were this time last year: promoting the social model of disability, raising awareness of deaf issues and seeking a range of socio-economic solutions to the barriers our people face. The need for accessible information has never been greater. Understanding the dynamic process of Inclusive Communication is growing and has reached the Programme for Government. The pandemic learning has reinforced our arguments.

On a practical level, our partnership with the ALLIANCE is now delivering a short programme of relevant topics based on the plenary sessions from that conference. Kathy Li discusses work she is involved with as a founding member of “Missing in Architecture, a collective involved in meaningful ways to tackle design for disability. Brian McArthur from AMP Architects gives practical examples of collaborative design and Lorna Stephenson from BT outlines big picture services for inclusion and choice using digital services and innovations towards equality. Finally, Tony Murphy from Phonak looks at Assistive Technology and specialist service developments.

Practical, technical and digital solutions are as important as each individual who will benefit from them.

Over the course of the pandemic, we have been involved in Equality and Human Rights Impact Assessment processes, redesign and expansion of statutory services and collaborative approaches to engagement and consultation. Understanding the environmental and economic barriers and potential solutions have helped strengthen our contributions. Greater investment in communication and language skills, building resources and industry that promote and support communication and language too. Recognising that socio-economic and cultural rights require an emphasis on communication and language accessibility, we are now in the process of finding partners who will help develop further social change.

That has led us to work with the ALLIANCE, the Scottish Council on Visual Impairment and the Scottish Government on a new centre of excellence – The Scottish Sensory Hub – that will jointly capitalise on recent gains and sustain the pressure for permanent change.

Watch the full collection of recordings from ‘Right Design for Communication’:

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