Project Details


Around 6,200 children per year are born in South Africa with a significant degree of permanent deafness and many more become deaf through childhood illness. Over 95% of deaf children are born into hearing families with no prior experience of deafness. Deafness presents a major risk to the acquisition of language with poor literacy and very low educational attainment. For many families deafness also attracts unwelcome stigma, discrimination and society as a whole has low expectations of deaf people's potential despite a normal range of intelligence. The consequences for personal self actualisation, autonomous citizenship and contribution to broader society are far reaching with the majority of deaf adults struggling for employment, access to education and opportunities to lead a normal life. We will develop a series of social interventions using film and visual media to combat current and future public health burden that arises from these consequences.

Our project is focused on building resilience amongst deaf youth through enhancing self esteem, supporting hearing parents to develop their repertoire of emotions based (rather than merely functional) communication and developing practical keep safe resources in a context where deaf young people are especially vulnerable violent crime and abuse. Our chosen medium to achieve these goals is community based participatory film making because the visual is a highly accessible medium for both knowledge acquisition but also knowledge production for those for whom articulation, whether in spoken, signed or written languages, may be severely delayed and because of its non-dependence on the written word.

The project will work with deaf children/young people and their families to explore, produce and edit short films that demonstrate personal potential and ambition with the scope to influence wider public attitudes and act as an educational resource. In working with deaf and hearing filmmakers through workshops and community events the children will also acquire new social-relational skills, have the opportunity to restructure challenging daily experiences of being deaf into potentially inspiring futures through sharing and raising their ambitions of what is possible for them and having access to
deaf adult role models through these processes.

Deaf mentors and parents of deaf children will co-create a new emotions-based workshop curriculum to inspire parental confidence in communication about the non-functional aspects of life so emotional worlds and concepts open up to deaf children/young people as resources to enable them to understand their own development and read the emotional reactions of others - both vital aspects of resilience building.

We will create with deaf children/young people a series of interactive films designed to explore keeping safe strategies, prevent abuse, reduce risk and provide deaf young people with a means of knowing of how seek help and support. The community context through which the potential film scenarios are explored, created, filmed, edited and responded to are also learning opportunities for those who will take part in growing their personal and social strategies to combat abuse, neglect and discrimination.

All products will be made freely available in multiple languages, including South African Sign Language, through a Web Doc that will be fully update-able and accessible through a variety of low cost digital means.

The deaf and hearing team working together combine internationally leading expertise in visual anthropology, deaf studies, social research with deaf people and on the ground NGOs providing family centred intervention free at the point of need, parent-led support groups, deaf film makers and supported by the public health office of Gauteng province. The project is process-evaluated by students in deaf education and Deaf studies in South Africa.

The delivery of the project cements a new partnership ready for further research.

Funded by the AHRC-MRC GCRF Global Public Health Partnership call
Short titleR:HSA Enhancing resilient deaf
Effective start/end date1/11/1714/07/19

Collaborative partners

  • The University of Manchester (lead)
  • NSPCC (National Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children) (Collaborator)
  • University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg (Sub-contractor)


  • deaf
  • sign lanugage
  • South Africa


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