Contacting the likes of plumbers, flower arrangers and decorators, is difficult enough for deaf or hard of hearing people, but this is made harder when trades people come to their home and cannot communicate with them.
DeafCOG (Deaf Cultural Outreach Group) is a social enterprise that creates resources to support the lives of deaf people who use British Sign Language (BSL). One of its projects aims to create a trader-search website, where deaf and hearing people alike can find traders who can communicate with deaf people, from using clear English to signing in BSL.
DeafCOG was awarded a grant to develop its DeafProSussex website from the Strengthening DPULOS (Disabled People's User Led Organisations) Facilitation Fund set up by the government's Office for Disability Issues. DeafCOG Director, Sarah Playforth, who created the successful bid, said, "This fund recognises the importance the government places on user-led projects that enable people to create their own income-generating activities rather than rely on charitable support."
No-one in DeafCOG, an entirely voluntary social enterprise, had the skills or time to design the website, and a professional build would have cost more than the budget allowed, as complex levels of functionality were needed. So the university's social engagement team and DeafCOG directors developed an opportunity for students to take part in a competition to design the bespoke website.
John Walker, DeafCOG Director and Senior Research Fellow at the University of Brighton, said: "It is hard for deaf people to find accessible traders but there are also professional deaf traders who are not used by their employers when serving deaf and hard of hearing customers. DeafProSussex will bring together the best traders, who are native users of BSL as well as clear communicators, to one web page."
Two University of Brighton students, Mike Ernst and Daniel Whiteland-Smith, won the challenge to design and build the site and www.deafprosussex.co.uk 'The Home For Deaf Friendly Traders' was launched at the end of September during the Deaf Diaspora festival at the Friends Meeting House in Brighton.
Daniel Whiteland-Smith (left) and Mike Ernst
Mike, who is studying Digital Media Development BSc(Hons), said: "This was a great project for us because we wanted to work for an organisation that provides such a great service, and it would help us with our future employability."
Daniel, who is studying Software Engineering BSc(Hons), said: "It's really rewarding knowing this will help people with hearing disabilities."
The two students were praised for the successful design which provides each trader with a short video about their services and is accompanied by either British Sign Language or subtitles.
Clive Mason, Deaf British television presenter and lifetime achievement award winner for activism work on deaf issues, said: "I think this new website is really wonderful."