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Celebrating Deaf Communities

Improving Accessibility for Deaf Canadians

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With a focus on inclusiveness and the passing of the Accessible Canada Act, it’s time for organizations to provide equal access for Deaf Canadians.

All Canadians have the right to participate in society — but full participation is impossible without equal access to information. For many members of the Deaf and hard of hearing communities, this means communication in Sign language.

In Canada, American Sign Language (ASL), la langue des signes québécoise (LSQ), and Indigenous sign languages (ISL) are recognized as the primary languages of Deaf persons, according to the Accessible Canada Act (ACA).

In 2019, the federal government passed this landmark legislation to create barrier-free communities, workplaces, and services in key areas such as employment, communications and transportation. ACA applies to federally regulated entities, from crown corporations to industry sectors like banking. To promote inclusion, organizations need to remove language barriers for the Deaf community by sharing information in Sign language.

National deaf day

Deaf culture is deeply rooted in its own unique language, values, behavioural norms, educational institutions, political and social structures, and organizations.

Making accessibility a priority for Deaf Canadians

We’re at a pivotal point in our country’s history, as both governments and the private sector recognize the need to increase accessibility for the Deaf and hard of hearing communities. However, before making any attempts to meet accessibility requirements, organizations need to understand those requirements from a Deaf perspective.

Separate from the medical condition of deafness, Deaf culture is deeply rooted in its own unique language, values, behavioural norms, educational institutions, political and social structures, and organizations.

Language and culture are inseparable. The Deaf community is comprised of culturally Deaf people who use Sign language. The Canadian Association of the Deaf estimates that there are 357,000 culturally Deaf Canadians and 3.21 million hard of hearing Canadians. About 3.6 per cent of the population — approximately 1.3 million Canadians — are Sign language users, according to a Statistics Canada report published in 2016.

Sign languages are not the signed equivalent of a country’s spoken language. For example, ASL is not simply “signed English” but its own language, complete with grammar and syntax. Therefore, for clear, effective communication with the Deaf community, organizations need to provide interpretation and translation services to make information available in sign language.

Make interactions accessible, whether planned or spontaneous

Depending on the nature of the interaction, Sign language interpretation can be provided through in-person interpreting or Video Remote Interpreting (VRI).

When planning live events, offline conferences, and face-to-face meetings, businesses can rely on in-person interpreting. However, if a company has customers dropping in unexpectedly, either within its facility or on its website, VRI is a better solution.

With VRI, a remote interpreter facilitates communication between a sign language user and a hearing person via video using a smartphone, tablet, or computer with a webcam. It can be scheduled in advance or accessed on demand. With VRI, the Sign language user and the hearing person can be in the same room or connect online.

Make your content accessible

Now more than ever, people seek information online before connecting with a company directly. Imagine researching online for a product or service. How engaged would you be with its content if a website wasn’t in your native language? Or how likely would you be to buy? That’s why it’s crucial to translate content to communicate with the Deaf community.

Sign language translation is the process of converting text or pre-recorded content from one language into Sign language, ranging from a company-wide policy document to a social media video. Without Sign language translation, a significant demographic risks being excluded and, as a result, feeling neglected.

Moving toward a barrier-free Canada

The goal of the Accessible Canada Act is to make Canada barrier-free by 2040. As Canada moves to greater accessibility, organizations must take steps to prevent being left behind.

Book a consultation with SLIAO via its website. As experts in removing barriers, the SLIAO team can share resources and tools to help improve an organization’s accessibility.

Certified by Women Business Enterprises Canada Council (WBE Canada), SLIAO is women-owned and connects people through sign language. It offers quality interpreting and translation to ensure everyone has equal access to information. Services are reliable, efficient, and rooted in deep understanding and respect for the Deaf community.

National deaf day
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