This year’s South Queensland Conference (SQC) Big Camp saw an inspiring initiative to help those with hearing loss feel more included.
Christian Services for the Blind and Hearing Impaired (CSFBHI) coordinator Coralie Schofield collaborated with Noosa Christian College teacher Janaya Lewis to coordinate a series of sign language workshops that drew an enthusiastic crowd of participants. They employed the help of Just Auslan, a professional sign language tutoring group to take the workshops.
“The response was overwhelming,” Mrs Schofield noted. Fifteen individuals pre-registered, but an additional 22 joined on the day, resulting in more than 30 attendees daily, with some arriving early for extra practice.
In addition to the workshops, this year’s SQC Big Camp program also incorporated accessibility elements. The main programs at Big Camp were live-streamed and captions were available. Assistive listening technology was also available for the hard of hearing, and both Sabbaths (September 23 and 30) had an Auslan interpreter in person as well as on the live-stream, ensuring all had access to the programs. One teenager travelled 11 hours to be at camp after learning there would be interpreters.
According to Mrs Schofield, sign language is becoming a “more and more needed skill as hearing loss is no longer limited to the elderly, with statistics reflecting a concerning increase in younger individuals affected”. She noted that factors like earphones and noise pollution are contributing to this issue.
The workshops introduced participants to the basics of sign language, empowering them to communicate effectively. With a mere 2000-3000 words making up 80 per cent of most daily communication in English-spoken countries, learning Auslan is an achievable goal.
The impact of the workshops extended beyond Big Camp. One attendee was so excited she created a promotion video featuring those who came to the workshop and sent it to her local church, inspiring members to embrace sign language by doing a Pathfinder Auslan honour.
Local churches can contact CSFBHI for accessibility options for the blind, low-vision, hard-of-hearing and Deaf via their website or email firstname.lastname@example.org.