As part of our continued efforts to include diverse perspectives in creation of inclusive cities, IDRC partnered with Creative Amnesty and organized an embedded co-design session at the Deaf Culture Centre. The session was held on September 16th, 2018 at the Deaf Culture Centre in the Distillery District. The session was held in the afternoon after a coding workshop. Six hearing and eleven deaf people participated in a 2 hour long co-design session from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm. Two IDRC members facilitated this session with the help of two ASL interpreters.
The co-design activity was developed in collaboration with the Creative Amnesty and the Deaf Culture Centre to tailor the activity to the interests and needs of the deaf community. The activity had three parts: individual reflection, small group discussion, and large group discussion.
Objective: Reflect on personal experiences living in today’s neighbourhood
Duration: 30 minutes
Participants were given worksheets to complete based on their current neighbourhood experience. The first worksheet asked participants to identify the type of neighbourhood they currently live in, which type of school they attend(ed), and instances in which they noticed the design of their neighbourhood did/did not take their needs into consideration. The second worksheet asked participants to identify places or activities when they feel safe or unsafe through a checklist. Some items on this checklist included: when driving a car, when in a movie theater, when in a park at night, and when navigating a space alone.
Objective: Discuss and brainstorm ways to improve the city for their community
Duration: 1 hour
In groups of 5 - 6, participants were given the following 3 questions to discuss and answer.
Each ASL interpreter joined a group to help facilitate conversation between hearing participants and deaf participants. One group had participants who could communicate both verbally and through ASL and helped mediate their discussion.
Objective: Share and discuss ideas with other groups
Duration: 30 minutes
After the small group discussions, teams took a 10 minute break. After the break, each group sent a representative to summarize and present their ideas to the large group. Participants were encouraged to ask questions or provide comments to the presenting group and build on their discussions. The ASL interpreters took turns interpreting the presentations and discussions for all participants to be engaged.
Majority of participants expressed difficulty noticing/accessing information that are being communicated only via audio signals. For example, audio announcements/warnings in subway stations or inside the trains, stop announcements in buses and emergency alerts/sirens in public space and buildings. Some participants suggested having captions or ASL for these audio signals would definitely help the information communication with the deaf community.
Several participants also commented on inaccessibility of the movie theaters for the deaf community as they rarely provide an option for captions or ASL.
Some participants commented on physical accessibility of the subway stations and unavailability of ramps and elevators, which makes it very difficult for people with mobility devices or strollers to move around. Poor signage with small fonts in poorly lit areas was another concern that made navigation and wayfinding more challenging for the participants.
A participant also noted that there is no designated area on the public transit for deaf passengers who cannot speak out and ask others to move out of their way when they are getting in and out of the public transit particularly during rush hours.
A participant expressed how they avoid attending many city events as there are no interpreters available there to communicate the audio information with deaf participants.
Participants expressed that having access to deaf schools and accessibility departments for students has allowed them to easily communicate with one another. In addition, having access to interpreters and note takers at schools has helped with bridging the communication gap between deaf students and others.
Availability of closed captioning services on TVs/Large screens in public spaces and during emergencies helps deaf participants be more aware of their surroundings. Also being able to see captions for bus/streetcar stops and transit maps that visually allow passengers to track their route (e.g. subway maps that lit up the stops) helps with their navigation. Several participants also mentioned that multimodal traffic lights that beep and flash positively impacts their experience of crossing the streets.
A common concern of different groups relates to the disconnect between the deaf individuals and the rest of the community. Due to this disconnect they cannot participate in the society equally, have the same job opportunities, attend public events and even have day to day conversations with others.
Groups brainstormed ideas about how to help bridge this gap. Providing opportunities for hearing individuals to learn ASL would help the deaf members of the community to easily communicate, work, and study with others in the community. Enforcing the use of interpreters at all public and private events also enables the deaf community to attend these events. Having apps and interfaces that can interpret sign language to verbal communication would significantly help deaf individuals in daily conversations and will assist them in completing their tasks in different environments, such as restaurants or grocery stores. Providing visual aids during emergencies, such as lighting-up streets or street poles when an emergency vehicle is approaching, and captions for audio announcements in public transit would significantly help deaf individuals to be aware of what is happening in their surrounding. Having access to an app that provides a description of an environment/building through sign language and text would help deaf individuals in wayfinding in indoor and outdoor spaces. They also mentioned that systems/services that heavily rely on verbal communication, such as 911, elevator help buttons, and automated customer services should be enforced to include an option for text entry or sign interpretation.
Similar to the previous question, the participants were concerned about their inability to have basic conversations with people whom they need to interact with on a daily basis. They suggested enforcing a basic ASL training for people running businesses, or involved in emergency services (police, firefighters, hospital staff, etc.) and transit personnel. Including ASL as a required component in school curriculum was also another way to get others to integrate with the deaf community. Building an awareness campaign across the city to educate citizens about the deaf community’s accessibility needs, and having events to bring awareness to deaf experience, such as not being able to hear for a day were other forms of bridging the communication gap suggested by different groups. Having ASL interpreters on staff at hospitals, libraries and other public services would also enable deaf individuals to easier communicate their needs.
Different applications of technology were suggested by each group to facilitate their participation in the society. The ability to tap health card/passport to automatically fill information would prevent miscommunication particularly during emergencies or crisis. Adding video relay capabilities to public kiosks would assist deaf individuals to complete their tasks easier. Adding sign interpretation to all visual content on TV, screens in public spaces, and audio announcement was another way technology could help participants to thrive in their community. Utilizing haptic feedback and vibration to alert deaf individuals in different situations, such as when crossing the street, or when someone is ringing the doorbell would connect deaf individuals with their immediate environment. One of the groups also suggested a central service that provides on-demand interpretation in real-time. So, hospitals and other services would be able to immediately connect to this service when there is a need for ASL interpretation.