Most hearing people do not come in contact with deaf people unless they have deaf members in the family, at school or adults in the workplace. Hearing people have misconceptions about Deaf people, Sign Language and the Deaf Community. Most deaf people (about 95%), all over the world, have hearing parents and do not come in contact with deaf adults and Sign Language before the age that formal primary education starts. The majority of hearing parents do not come in touch with deafness even after their child is diagnosed of being deaf. It may sound as a paradox but this is the case world wide.
This lack of contact and knowledge marginalizes Deaf people, their language and their culture. Hearing people rarely socialize with Deaf adults. Families of Deaf children come into contact mainly with doctors and speech therapists, after the diagnosis of deafness hence there is a pathological approach of the problem and non-acceptance of Sign Language and deafness.
Hearing adults and in general the family or coworkers of Deaf people do not know and do not use Sign Language in their every day communication with them. The major trend observed still today in many European countries is that hearing people do not know Sign Language at all. This lack of communicative competence is identified as the root of all problems arising in the family and growing with practitioners, coworkers and the Hearing World in general. It has been reported that there is a high correlation between communicative competence in Sign Language and levels and quality of interaction between Deaf and hearing people (Kourbetis, Adamopoulou & Ferentinos 2005).
In such a communicative environment, development of any language is severely delayed. This results in a linguistic deprivation of deaf children and social deprivation for Deaf adults.
It has been argued in the literature for decades now that healthy, realistic expectations for the Deaf, positive reactions to deafness, and exposure to Deaf Role Models will better develop a bicultural identity and form healthy relationships with Deaf and hearing people alike. Acquiring a bicultural identity is crucial for most Deaf people in developing a productive and rewarding life. Hearing adults having or working with Deaf people of all ages will benefit from contact with Deaf adults in terms of understanding and accepting deafness and Deaf culture (Holcomb, 1997; Lane, Hoffmeister, and Bahan 1996; Moores 1996; Mahshie 1995; Woodward 1989).
The objectives of our project
The target groups that the project is aimed at are:
- Direct beneficiaries: Deaf people members of the Deaf Communities and their families.
- Indirect beneficiaries:
✔National and regional Associations of the Deaf,
✔Organizations of people with disabilities,
✔People with disabilities,
✔Higher education Institutions,
✔Vocational Training Centers,
✔Professionals working with Deaf and Hard of hearing people,
The results expected during the project and on its completion.
Innovative project and complementary to other projects already carried out by the participating organisations.
Deaf adults as Role Models are the main participants in the training activities, an Innovative practice in our project.
Role Models are people who are an example of what they can achieve in life, people we might feel we can relate to. People who have open a path for us so there are not as many barriers to overcome. In the case of Deaf Role Models, these are people who are living their lives, doing things that we might feel are impossible or difficult to do. They show us that it is possible, that sometimes things are a struggle and that’s fine because you can still get there and achieve your life goals. Sometimes Role Models are people who achieve something new in their fields, and help us realize that we all have something different to contribute.
The Sign Links project is complementary to a recent Erasmus+ project “Teaching European Sign Languages as a First Language” bearing the Acronym title “Sign First” and code number 2016-1- EL01-KA201-023513, www.sign1st.eu .
The Pilot project
Taking into account that the development of language affects the academic and socio-emotional development of deaf students and that parents need systematic reinforcement and support at both communication and counseling levels, following multiple requests, a workshop was established in the kindergarten of Argyroupolis every week after the end of the teaching week on Saturday afternoons. (17.00- 20.OO pm). Saturdays served most parent’s needs. The workshops lasted for three-hours and was addressed to deaf children, their parents, relatives and friends.
Parents during the workshop were attending courses of Greek Sign Language by an experienced Deaf teacher, aiming in developing their basic communication skills. They also participated in a discussion group coordinated by a psychologist with extensive experience in disability, deafness and hearing impairment. Every week there was a guest, a presenter, mostly people from the Deaf Community, who as Deaf role models transferred their experiences and their views about the disability to the parents.
Children could participate in sports (football and taekwondo) and fine (visual) arts. Coaches, trainers and animators were Deaf or hard of hearing people. Deaf children could come in contact with the Deaf adults and experience their culture and the cultural elements of the Deaf community. By having such alternative language models for imitation, children could develop a clear identity that will also contribute to their smooth socio-emotional development.
During the implementation of these workshops the necessity to enforce and develop the communicative, linguist, teaching and counseling skill of the Deaf adults functioning as role models for parents and children became apparent.
Therefore the initial positive results of these workshops for parents and children has been driven to the idea of developing the Sign Links project.
We will develop an extensive guide for parents that will include information about deafness, educational methods, awareness about the Deaf community and the Deaf culture.
The Sign Links project is also innovative by using accessible Open Education practices so Deaf people will not be left behind In the digital era and bridge of the gap that is evident between the Hearing and the Deaf World.
Support of participants so that they will fully engage in the planned activities
Since deaf people all over the world read at an approximate level or fourth grade, all of our written materials will be simplified according to the educational difficulties that our participants may have. Training material will be presented mostly on a visual format and through the use of assistive technologies.