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Support helps more deaf people to communicate online in North Wales

Digital Communities Wales works with organisations who support people who are more likely to be left behind by advances in digital technology.

This includes disabled people. For various reasons, disabled people may find it more difficult to access and use equipment that most people take for granted.

With this in mind, we’ve worked with North Wales Deaf Association (NWDA) to improve the way the organisation uses digital technology, which would enable it to help more of its service users to do the same.

NWDA is a regional organisation supporting deaf, deafened, hard of hearing and deafblind people across North Wales. In addition to the primary service users, NWDA also supports family, friends, carers, colleagues and other services and support organisations in the region. NWDA works closely with a variety of services and agencies to promote, develop and enhance the provision of appropriate accessible services and resources available to people with a hearing loss.

The organisation was struggling on a number of fronts, including the ability to support service users with technology, as well as their own internal IT systems and processes. Digital Communities Wales provided ‘Digital Champion’ training to frontline staff and volunteers, which included specific sessions on “Getting Online”, Social Media for Business, Financial Inclusion, and use of the Universal Credit portal. NWDA’s management team was provided with a Digital Inclusion Strategy document, designed to identify the way in which the organisation uses technology for administration and communications, and providing them with a clear path and end goals.

The training has changed the way in which the support staff assist service users, they are now able to communicate far more effectively with both service users and their support staff and families. They are also supporting service users by incorporating British Sign Language (BSL) skills with the digital training, providing “trilingual” IT sessions to users. This has included communicating using BSL over software such as Skype – something that has not happened in North Wales before.

The Digital Inclusion Strategy is being used as a template, enabling the organisation to take stock of the way they are using ICT, and what the skill levels are for staff, volunteers and services users, so that they can introduce a clear ICT development plan to the organisation – one that fits with the company’s aims, objectives and business plan.