Joanna Kinberger: enabling greater self-study, self-determination and empowerment
I work as EU Project Manager at equalizent Schulungs- und Beratungs GmbH in Vienna, Austria. equalizent is a company with many years of expertise in the fields of Deafness, Sign Language and Diversity Management, offering courses and counselling in German and Austrian Sign Language for people who are d/Deaf, Hard of Hearing and hearing.
I am relatively new to EPALE. My experience to date has mostly been with Erasmus+ youth projects but I was asked to present a project at the EPALE and Erasmus+ conference organised by the OEAD in spring 2021 and in the meantime, I am very glad to have access to the EPALE platform, resources and community.
Writing an Erasmus+ application is always challenging but designing an intervention to ensure access to bilingual (signed and written) information for d/Deaf jobseekers is doubly challenging – simply because there are so few resources available in Sign Language.
Through the Erasmus+ project Accessible Work for All, our aim is to promote equality, non-discrimination and diversity through the innovation of providing information on working rights in accessible digital formats. In other words, our outputs, in the form of animated videos with Sign Language moderation, explain different aspects of working rights for workers and employees. At the beginning of each video, a character (Max or Julia) introduces a specific situation (i.e. employment contracts, conflict in the workplace, home office, and many more) and the rest of the video is an explanation of the relevant employment regulations. The videos last between 5-8 minutes and they are subtitled. Accompanying plain language texts ensure the content is fully accessible and facilitate understanding of any complex terminology or jargon.
Unemployment for d/Deaf people is three times higher than world national averages according to the World Federation of the Deaf, making d/Deaf job seekers particularly vulnerable to the poverty trap. More than 90 per cent of d/Deaf children are born to hearing parents so they lack an adult language model at home. Across Europe, lack of bilingual schooling means that most d/Deaf children try to learn to read and write without reference to their first language (Sign Language). This leaves them at a disadvantage to their hearing peers from a young age, the disparity growing as they get older.
Linguistic exclusion leads to actual exclusion.
Accessible Work for All is a project with 4 partners from Austria, Germany, Italy and Poland. By providing information on working rights in accessible or barrier-free digital formats – in Austrian, German, Italian and Polish Sign Languages – our intervention is in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which is the first international treaty ever to recognise sign languages and the linguistic human rights of d/Deaf people.
Our aim is to enable greater self-study, self-determination and empowerment – the accessible format means that d/Deaf job seekers can access the information on working rights unaided, without communication assistance or interpretation. Moreover, the provision of online digital tools contributes towards reducing disparities in access to and engagement with digital technologies in non-formal education for d/Deaf job seekers.
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