Can social media beat Deaf apathy?

This article was written by me originally posted on the Limping Chicken website on 23 April 2012. You can see it here.

For those of us who are associated with the Deaf community, it’s a well known belief that apathy is one of the biggest barriers we face.

What this means is basically this: if there are negative reforms targeted at Deaf people, whether directly or not, such as the impact of changes to Disability Living Allowance, cuts to legal aid funding, cuts to local authority-funded services etc, they usually pass by without so much of a whimper from Deaf people.


The general consensus is apathy. People either feeling they can’t make a difference, or not being willing to try. Some say it has got worse since the recognition of BSL as an official language

  • The demise of the Federation of Deaf People – this voluntary organisation spearheaded many of the BSL marches that occurred before the recognition of BSL.
  • The lack of a strong campaigning organisation to equal FDP since it’s demise. Now the British Deaf Association have a clear vision for the future many are hoping they will pick up the mantle.
  • A lack of deaf identity in young people. More and more Deaf children are being mainstreamed, taking them away from the Deaf community and most importantly, Deaf politics.
  • That’s not to say that there hasn’t been periods of protest or campaigning activity among the Deaf community since: the Stop Eugenics and Save Deaf Studies campaigns and the emergence of the group Deaf Parents Deaf Children (who released this YouTube hit video of a mother and daughter signing) spring to mind.

    However, these are few or far between, and rely on Deaf individuals who are willing to expend their time and resources to lead a campaign.

    Apathy was the subject of a brief exchange of tweets on Twitter recently, and it was suggested that social media and virals need to be embraced more.

    The power of social media was plainly obvious following the broadcast of the Deaf Teens: Hearing World BBC programme which launched the “limping chicken” phenomenon.

    Within hours of broadcast, the Deaf community was afire with jokes, amateur video clips, and social groups courtesy of Twitter and Facebook.

    It was THE talk of the Deaf community for a few weeks and for that brief time, there was a genuine feeling of unity among all D/deaf people.

    It even inspired the name of this very website and has arguably become part of UK Deaf community culture. For example, Deaf people who regularly use interpreters will now as a matter of routine ask interpreters who are late for an assignment whether their chicken was ill!

    So, the future is bright. We know it is certainly possible for the Deaf community to unite for a brief period of time. The trick now is to harness the opportunity that has presented itself through the use of social media and virals to bring some real change for Deaf people.

    We now need someone or a group to lead these changes. Perhaps a resurrection of the Federation for Deaf people is on the cards? Or can a Deaf organisation lead the way?

    Let’s see.


    Deaf, hubby to Rachel, dad to Corey, Libby and Emily, Solicitor, Lecturer in Legal Practice at University of South Wales, PhD student at University of Leicester.

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    4 Responses

    1. MM says:

      I read the first blog. Frankly the short and long answer is no. National charities concerned with deaf and loss issues have tried and consistently failed to even raise awareness on them, let alone engender campaign support, and they employ professionals in social media things Every time social media attempted to ‘unify’ deaf, that failed too, within a day it drifted away from issue of concern to social chit-chat. Facebook is condemned by most as a threat to deaf people and others vulnerable. Many deaf left it.

      What happens in any social media these days is they form immediate cliques and start eliminating people who challenge the view or direction of campaigns, your face has to fit, just as ye olde deaf clubs ran things, the only difference is we’ve gone digital. I keep getting told unless you are on social media which is the greatest thing since sliced bread apparently, you are dead to the world, but we’ve yet to see a single successful deaf or HI campaign launched.

      When you can show us any part of Twitter or FB that has changed deaf and HI rights in law, I’ll buy in, I suspect I am going to have to continue to stay out for the foreseeable future. the proof is in the pudding,and, the Deaf Fed was a failure too….. when Twitter deaf were asked to march for rights the proposer was laughed at as ‘dated’…..

    2. Des says:

      A very good example from Sense (representing deafblind people) was that under the “See Me Hear Me” project in early 2000s, Sense organised the campaign training weekends and they were held in many places across the UK. I attended one – held in Cambridge – in November 2004 and was very amazed with the outcome. Although I have good knowledge about the parliamentary system, lobbying MPs etc, that event provided very useful steps that enabled me to develop further on my campaign skills, such as reporting issues to the mainstream media (e.g. The Guardian, The Times, etc), writing letters to MPs (and of course, requesting them to liaise with these within the Cabinet) and so on. Although the project finished, Sense continued further their campaign work by:
      * writing sample letters, tailored according to the aims eg DLA, Social Care, Direct Payments etc), to us for forwarding to our MPs in our own names.
      * organising designated area for lobbying MPs within the Palace of Westminster.
      * Campaign newsletters on a regular basis.

      Looking at Sense’s work and how deafblind people shows a rather proactive approach in the campaign field, perhaps, the deaf organisation could hand up and start to do some works on the campaign training? Have hoped that the British Deaf Association could do this, but to my bitter disappointment – none! In my opinion, a person, representing BDA, tells participants: “go and lobby your MPs, write letters to MPs etc” – without such campaign resources, I would doubt whether or not the participants would be aware…
      *SOME, ***not ALL***, are eligible to vote in the General Election
      *HOW to locate MPs in its own constituency
      *Correct steps in lobbying MPs
      *WRITE letters, in acceptable format, to MPs
      Some food for thoughts – for the deaf organisation: campaign training!
      ….off for sleep. Goodnight, folks and gals.

    3. Des says:

      Video about Sense’s See Me Hear Me campaign.

    4. MM says:

      I’m in awe of the blind/sense frankly, they are actually in Wales doing the work our deaf groups should be doing in highlighting the fact 70% of BSL users had no access to health systems, and lobbying for us. I do think it is time deaf started to do things for themselves, if the blind can, why can’t we ? That conundrum called ‘social media’ is to blame,it just isn’t used by deaf for any real purpose of advancing our rights or access. Talk is cheap even free, actions requires effort deaf are not prepared to put in it seems.

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