Jeff McWhinney: assisting deaf people to connect with public services
Deaf people who use British Sign Language (BSL) as their main form of communication are often unable to access public services. The pandemic has widened these existing inequalities, as many public services such as medical appointments have moved online without the provision of a BSL interpreter. In particular the more elderly and isolated deaf community have been unable to keep up with the latest developments in video technology in order to access these services.
Jeff McWhinney from Blackheath in London is a disability rights activist and a leader in the British deaf community.
He will use his grant to produce a video that clearly demonstrates in British Sign Language how to use a webcam, live video calling applications such as Zoom, and static video messaging applications on a variety of devices. Jeff himself found that using a webcam to access BSL interpreters (known as a video relay service – VRS) has enabled him to overcome communication barriers, access more services and stay connected. He hopes the video will enable Deaf people to use this VRS technology, and plans to raise awareness about it amongst public services and organisations across the UK. Jeff's Churchill Fellowship to Australia, New Zealand and the USA in 2007 explored video technology apps and practices to enable sign language interpreting.