Deaf Life26th November 2013

Deaf CCTV workers in Mexico

Deaf operators of CCTV in Mexico have delivered better outcomes

by Sarah Lawrence

Here at SL First we get told about lots of cases when employers seem to make decisions not to employ a deaf applicant based on what they think a deaf person can't do, rather than seeing the applicant for what they can do. There is a myriad of cases where deaf applicants have not got through paper sift or been invited for interview despite having the skills required for the job.

​We've been trying to think of cases in the UK where a deaf person has been employed where being deaf has been seen to make them more suitable for a particular job. We were struggling to come up with any examples. An obvious case should be the teaching of British Sign Language and running deaf awareness training sessions, but there are many cases where preference has been given to hearing teachers to teach BSL or where interpreters or Level 1/2 qualified BSL learners have run deaf awareness.

In the majority of cases, it seems as though a deaf person is used only when all other options have been exhausted. Extending the scope of my thoughts, I recalled learning about a year ago about an experiment in Mexico where deaf people were being used to monitor the Closed Circuit Television system in Oaxaca. Over a year later, I was pleased to learn that the experiment is about to be extended.

In 2012 the governor of Oaxaca, Mexico, faced a growing problem of deaf unemployment. He took a bold step and decided to hire 20 deaf people to work in the cities CCTV Commend Centre. The team were given the task of monitoring 230 surveillance cameras looking for incidents for law enforcement officers to deal with.

Very quickly in the initial trial period it was found that the deaf workers were generating better results than their hearing counterparts. The benefits stemmed from three things. 1. Some of the deaf officers could lipread, so they were able to add conversation to the otherwise silent cameras. 2. Being deaf their use of sight was enhanced and they were able to see more of what was happening, including reading body language and facial expression. 3. Being deaf they were not distracted by the sounds around them in the Control Room and so more readily concentrated on the task in hand. 

Perhaps inadvertently, in seeking to do something about deaf unemployment, the Governor has made a decision that resulted in an enhancement to the use of the city's $56 million CCTV system. On a number of levels, the Governor's decision was seen as a considerable success.

Oaxaca's CCTV system isn't all that different from city surveillance systems that have been introduced in towns and cities all over the world. What makes it different is the use of deaf employees to monitor activity. The 'Angels of Silence' as they have been labelled, have given food for thought for decision makers across the globe.  The success is such that by the end of 2013, the Oaxaca authorities intend to increase the number of cameras from 230 to over 400, with further recruitment from the deaf community likely to provide additional staff.

A spokesperson for Oaxaca's public safety department told the world press this week that the city had been visited by interested parties from Britain, Germany, Argentina and the United Arab Emirates who are interested in their programme.

At SL First, we hope that the national and local decision makers for the monitoring of CCTV in the UK acknowledge the enhanced skills brought to the table by deaf applicants and give them a fair chance in doing this type of job.

There has been an explosion of CCTV systems right the way across the UK and it would be a shame for the best resource not to be used to make best use of them in the fight against crime and disorder.

Article by Sarah Lawrence

posted in Community / Deaf Life

26th November 2013