Tackling loneliness through British Sign Language
For Deaf Awareness Week 2023, Robin Ash, Equality and Rights Manager for the British Deaf Association talks about their DCMS-funded project which ran last year and introduces a new project which will continue this work.
Raising awareness of loneliness within the Deaf community
I am here to talk about our project that took place last year. We were funded to raise awareness of loneliness, where people would go to get support and also how we reduce the incidence of loneliness within our community.
We went to visit Deaf community groups and schools across the whole of England and arranged a series of live-streamed events where we interviewed organisations and people about their experience on how to reduce the incidence of loneliness and what support is available. We created some BSL videos to talk about what loneliness is and top tips to help people reduce loneliness. [These can be viewed on the British Deaf Association’s page about the England Loneliness Project]
After this visit to cross the UK, we realised that the subject of loneliness wasn’t talked about very often within the Deaf community. When we introduced the topic of loneliness, these people were saying they are fine, they don’t need any support. They obviously didn’t understand what it meant and also what support was available out there if they did feel lonely.
Throughout the presentation, we talked about what it meant to be lonely, where it could have started from early childhood. As people were becoming more and more aware of this, they were sharing their own examples of their own experiences of being lonely and how they coped.
Many of the attendees initially would say they weren’t lonely but then admitted that they had been lonely at some point through their lives. Some people were sharing some tips about if they did feel lonely what to do and it was obvious that the community were there to support each other and they were offering advice like why don’t you try this or try that to reduce those feelings of loneliness.
Even after the presentation finished, we could see people were still discussing the issue of loneliness.
What we learned from the community
Throughout these visits across England to schools or various Deaf groups, it was obvious that loneliness is a common issue amongst Deaf people through their experiences – and it doesn’t matter what age they are.
We learnt from the community that being lonely is very different for them, they can be in a Deaf community group and feel fine, but when they go home, they are lonely, they have no interaction with their local community or local society. Society causes barriers which makes Deaf people feel more lonely.
Continuing our learning and work
We are fortunate to have some funding to deliver a new project to continue this good work. This is called Bringing our Community Together.
We are going to have some live streamed events where we interview some guests to talk about what it is to be lonely and what support is available to reduce the incidences of loneliness. We are also going to do a roadshow and visit Deaf groups, schools and Deaf clubs – 25 in total over the next coming year – to raise awareness of loneliness and share some tips on how to support others who are feeling lonely. We will also create some videos so that people can share their experiences and how to reduce feeling lonely.
Please keep your eye out for those coming up soon via our website: British Deaf Association
Thanks Robin (always nice to meet a fellow Robin) – this sounds like a really valuable project. In my previous work I have done with diabetes it was very striking how cut off this community can be.