From blogging to vlogging: video can revolutionise the way we connect with the Deaf community

This week is International Week of the Deaf (IWD) – a perfect opportunity  to talk about the benefits of vlogging when it comes to connecting with British Sign Language (BSL) users.

Not familiar with the term vlog? Just as the word ‘blog’ is short for ‘web log’, vlog is short for video log, and the similarities between the two don’t end there. In terms of content, vlogging is a lot like blogging, only instead of posting a blog in a written language, you post a video and talk, sing, perform, or rant away. What’s less known is how valuable a Vlog can be in communicating with the Deaf community.

So why vlog?

For most Deaf BSL users in the UK English is a second language. Because 90% of deaf children grow up in hearing households they don’t acquire English in the same way as a hearing child does.

Informal conversation is crucial to early language acquisition. Unless the parents and family use BSL, this is something a deaf child misses out on. When they eventually come into contact with other deaf children and adults, they develop fluent BSL. While this assists them to learn English in written or spoken form, BSL remains their first language.

For many BSL users trying to understand the English written language can be like an English speaker trying to understand written Russian when they only have a basic outline of that language. While it’s possible to pick out words and phrases, unless you have a fluent grasp of Russian, it will be mostly incomprehensible or difficult to understand.

When it comes to communicating, you wouldn’t offer complex information to someone in Russian when they don’t fully grasp the language. It’s similar for a BSL user – the only difference being the language is visual rather than written or spoken.

If you want to get across vital information to a BSL user whose second language is English then there really is no alternative but to provide a BSL version of what you want to say. That’s where vlogging comes in.

Evolving from Blog to Vlog

Even though English is a second language for many, Deaf people have written blogs since the beginning (one of the most popular being Deafread). With increasing internet speeds allowing videos to be posted online it’s now easier to post messages in BSL. This opens up new ways to communicate with the Deaf community.

Examples of organisations or groups in the UK making good use of video include the National Deaf Children’s Society and Facebook’s Deaf Opinions.

Producing a vlog, or providing information in BSL, provides the BSL user with full access to information that they might miss out on if it was only provided in written English. Citizens Advice has several BSL video’s on a variety of subjects on its website, as do the Royal Association for Deaf People.

For many people whose first language is BSL, providing information in BSL online is the only way it will be fully understood. For Deaf women and children who’ve experienced domestic abuse, the DeafHope website gives information on where they can go for support.  Limping Chicken, the online deaf news media outlet, is another platform where information that affects the Deaf community can be shared in BSL, like in their recent vlog on hate crime reporting.

When should you create a BSL vlog?

If you’ve got a particular issue that affects BSL users, or you want to communicate key information about your service or project, consider making a vlog.

You might want to let Deaf people know you provide a BSL Interpreter at some of your public meetings or training events. Perhaps you want to pilot a service using BSL users or Interpreters, or a video relay service. Or maybe you simply have updated information that BSL users would benefit from, like changes to benefits.

So how do you do it?

Creating a vlog is pretty easy – write your script in English and find a BSL user who’s happy to be filmed while they translate it. At Citizens Advice we might ask a Deaf BSL Adviser to do this, but you could use a staff member or volunteer at your organisation who is fluent in BSL. If you’d like to commission your vlog instead, companies that specialise in creating BSL vlogs, like Flashing Lights, can do all of this for you.

If you want subtitles on your vlog it’s not a good idea to rely on Youtube’s auto captioning. Instead, ask the company you commissioned to create your vlog to create subtitles or add them yourself. If you choose to add them yourself, though, make sure that your subtitles don’t block the BSL.

Once you’ve got your finished vlog, the best channel for hosting it is Youtube. You can embed Youtube videos on Facebook, Twitter or your own website.

Throwing down the gauntlet…

Vlogging in BSL is a great way to reach out and connect with a community that’s often overlooked when it comes to digital media. Why not set yourself a challenge and commit to creating one BSL vlog about your work this year. It would be great to see what feedback you get from the BSL community.

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