After Christmas, Digability will be launching a new group for people who are D/deaf in the Sheffield/Doncaster area. It will be necessary to make sure that there is an interpreter for each session as well as any other additional support the students feel is necessary. As tutors we are also learning some BSL.
In this month’s forum we would like to ask for opinions on what it is like to work in archaeology if you are D/deaf. What challenges do you face and are there examples of how these have been overcome?
If you work in community archaeology, what provision do you make for D/deaf people?
There are some fabulous stories on the web. Have a look at Tory Sampson’s story about becoming an archaeology student here.
In the 1990s, White conducted a field school on Mount Vernon, described as ‘The first archaeological fieldschool specifically directed for deaf and hard of hearing students’. The blog they set up in 2011 describes their work between 1992 and 1994 with the Gaulladet University and the commitment of the staff to learning ASL.
Ferry Farm, George Washington’s childhood home, offers a Deaf and Hard of Hearing tour once a year in Archaeology Month.
On trawling the web I also came across some interesting historical evidence for teaching communication so that others could communicate with the deaf. In the 1660s, John Wallis produced for his pupil Alexander Popham an early form of sign language so that they could communicate.
Let us know your thoughts.
The Digability project has wider implications than just developing or improving an individual’s archaeological or historical knowledge. We feel that archaeology/heritage is a fantastic vehicle for developing our students’ sense of self and improving their transferable skills, as well as their health and well-being. We have found many of our students have improved their communication skills and confidence as a result of participating in the project. Our students have particularly thrived in a learning environment where they are encouraged to voice their opinions. All our students feedback positively and very personally about the impact the project has had on them and their health and well-being, but it is hard to measure these apart from through quotes.
The capture of this data is becoming more and more important as we all seek to justify our funding to those outside the heritage industry.
At the recent WEA conference in Cambridge we learnt of projects working with refugees who use historical sites and museums as a way of introducing immigrants to Britain, promoting discussion and language development in addition to giving navigational landmarks around a large city such as Glasgow.
We would love to hear if anyone has managed to turn these quotes into quantifiable data or if you have found innovative ways of capturing health and well-being benefits. What questions should be asked? Often when presented with a questionnaire at the beginning of a course students are a bit baffled by what they should put down for questions such as ‘What is your health like?’, so it is hard to formulate a measure of development over the course as there is no starting point recorded. Can we capture data only at the end of the course with questions such as ‘Has your health improved?’