How to make Scouting deaf-friendly
Here is valuable first hand advice supporting adults working with young people who are deaf.
Two years ago Lucy, a Beaver Scout Leader within 1st Stanstead Abbotts & St Margaret’s Scout Group, had two boys, George and Harry join her Colony who are deaf at the age of six. Joining Scouting has opened their world to activities they wouldn’t have been able to take part in if they were not involved. Recently they have been invested into their local Cub section to carry on their Scouting adventure. Here Lucy shares her tips on how to make Scouting accessible for young people who are deaf.
1. Plan your Programme to include them in all the activities
“We were desperate to include them in every single activity that we did. We didn’t want them to miss out on anything.”
2. Tweak your meetings to make them more accessible
“We were always on the look out for different ways we could adjust our meetings so that they were accessible for the boys. For example, when talking to the whole Colony, we would ask all of the Beavers to line up in front of the wall instead of an arch shape. That way all of the young people could see us and it was easier for the boys to read our lips.”
3. Give the young people the choice to take part in an activity
“Like with all the young people we would never want to force George and Harry to do something they wouldn’t be comfortable doing. Depending on the activity we would ask them if they would like to take part. There was one session we ran to raise awareness about sight loss, with an activity involving being blindfolded. I wasn’t sure if the boys would want to take part because it would mean they would have no sense of hearing or sight. I knew the night would be very useful for them as well, so I asked if they would like to take part in the activities. One of them took part and really enjoyed it.”
4. Safety comes first!
“As leaders we always have to think of safety first. For example, at sleepovers we had to make sure the boys slept in rooms closest to where the leaders were in case of a fire. If a fire alarm went off while they were sleeping, they wouldn’t hear it and we would need to wake them up! When rock climbing, because they wouldn’t be able to hear me at the bottom, I would make sure I had a harness on so that I could be with them to give them the extra support when they needed it. As leaders we had to be prepared and think about the potential safety hazards.”
5. Treat them equally to the other young people
“Because we treated everybody the same, the other Beaver Scouts never treated the boys differently; they didn’t see a difference between them! If it would rain while we were out walking, we would ask all the Beavers to put their hoods and hats on. Hearing aids are very expensive and the boys cannot get them wet, so they always need to protect them. By making sure we’re not singling them out by telling them to put their hats on, we made sure everybody did it.”
6. Keep the sessions active
“It’s very tiring for the boys if they spend a session constantly having to read the leaders lips. By keeping the sessions active it means they will spend more time having fun with their friends. We do a lot of outdoors and team building activities, so the young people have to constantly work together and help each other. This helps to create friendship bonds. It’s great because the boys go to school with some of the Beavers so now they have friends in school as well!”
7. Communicate in a way that works for them
“One of the boys was severely deaf, and sometimes we had to communicate with each of them differently. For example, when I would put the Beavers into groups and call out their group name, I would go over and tap one of the boys’ shoulders so that he knew I was calling his group. But for the other, he would notice that everybody else had stopped talking and would turn around to focus on the Leader. We use the technique of putting our hand up, to signal to the Beavers that it is time to pay attention, as everybody in the section can understand what that means.”
To support adult leaders working with young people who are deaf, we have this resource about making Scouting deaf friendly, created alongside National Deaf Children’s Society.There is flexibility within the Programme, which means that all young people can enjoy and achieve. The guiding principle should be that all young people are being challenged, while having fun.
For more information about accessibility and additional needs visit here.