Deaf Life25th January 2015

Deaf Opinions Facebook Page - a New On-Line Deaf Club?

Facebook has opened up an on-line community for Deaf people to get involved and to help others

by Sean Midnight

Social gatherings, events, competitions and sporting challenges at Deaf clubs have for many years been a central part of deaf community life. Clubs have always provided the one place deaf people can go to meet like-minded people, to discuss the issues of the day and to share information. For lots of people, ‘Deaf club’ has been a major part of their life, a lifeline for people who cannot obtain the information they want easily in other ways.

Until recently, the only way to get social and to get the help of other Deaf people, was to go to Deaf club, many a hand-wag being used to raise a problem and to get the advice you were looking for. However, today we are enjoying a new way to ‘get social’ and to pick the brains of deaf people from all over the UK. The explosion of social media has opened up lines of communication that us deafies could only have dreamed about previously, and it is an opportunity that is being eagerly grabbed by hundreds and thousands of deaf people.

The most popular social media platform is Facebook, with people able to send messages and share photos and video to friends and family living miles away from them. Being on Facebook also allows people to join groups that might be of interest to them, and one of the most popular groups is Deaf Opinions.

The brain child of the Deaf Opinions Group is Angel Walford, a freelance support worker, who set up the Facebook page to help people get easy access to the information they were often asking her about, simple questions like, “How do you do that”, “Which one should I buy”, or “How can I fix it”. On Facebook, Angel followed other deaf groups and realised that lots of deaf people were asking similar questions. Checking out a page called ‘Hearing Opinions’, which provided the answers that deaf people might be looking for, she decided to set up Deaf Opinions, a virtual deaf ‘help’ group.

As with all groups, Deaf Opinions started small, but Angel involved two well respected people within the Deaf Community, Sean Midnight and Andrea Temblett as members of her admin team, and that helped get the message out there that Deaf Opinions existed. With few members initially, there were only a few posts a day, but things have taken off big time since then.

The underlying principle of the group is, “We help you and you help us,” a forum where people ask other members for advice, opinions, tips or simply share useful information with others. By seeking and giving information the team at Deaf Opinions hope that the group also serves as a way to value what Deaf people have to offer and gives people a sense of on-line community.

“We expected Deaf Opinions to run for less than a year and just for fun,” Sean Midnight told me. “Then we realised it is not just for fun anymore as it is successful, so we recruited more admins and started to take it seriously.”

A closed group, it was hoped Deaf Opinions would attract a wide range of members, so that a richness of advice was available, but ultimately, the group is about helping Deaf people.

Since the early days, there is now a strong group of admins for Deaf Opinions, keeping a careful watch over discussions 24/7. Each admin brings new skills and knowledge to the table and they all volunteer to keep things running smoothly. Now two years in, the Deaf Opinions Facebook page is very busy with a wide range of issues raised every day. Knowledge of the group is now so widespread that others see it as a means to share information with the deaf community. This includes police officers giving safety advice and Deaf Charity SignHealth posting about things people can do to improve their health.  

With over 5000 members already and more people joining the group every day, the “help us and we will help you” ethos, plays itself out every day. Whilst some members of the group are there just to receive advice and information, Deaf Opinions has quite a few thoughtful, knowledgeable and helpful people who frequently share content in the hope it is useful to others.

I asked Sean about the top topics that come up regularly for discussion. “The hot topic the members talk about on Deaf Opinion is health,” Sean explained, “as the members often ask for advice about their illnesses and diseases. That is evidence that health services such as general practitioners (GPs) are failing their Deaf patients, due to lack of communication or giving proper access to Deaf people. The second hot topic would be members showing useful items and explaining how to use it, or giving reviews on products that they have bought.”

The Deaf Opinions Facebook page is successful because people go there with everyday issues, getting help and support that they cannot access anywhere else. It is also the place where new technology is discussed and the usefulness of an app like Glide gets shared widely and quickly. With very little new technology introduced with deaf people in mind, it is a good place for people to share when they stumble across something that is really useful.

With some Deaf Clubs sadly hitting the ropes and closing down, and many Deaf schools closed down, the team at Deaf Opinions believe that their Facebook group is one place people can go to mix with people who are similar to them. The great benefit is that you can dip in and out of the group as you want, and can spend as much or as little time as suits you. It has been a place where people have re-found long lost friends and generally, it is a good positive place.

Because of the success of Deaf Opinions and the positive feedback they have generated, the team are now starting a new Facebook group – Deafland. This will be a more social, fun place to hang out, an opportunity to share jokes and funny stories.

Intending to reduce the isolation some deaf people face, Deaf Opinions is providing a great place for people to get involved and to feel a sense of community on-line. Described as an on-line Deaf club by some, the members are quick to help and support others, the tone of most posts being jovial and well-mannered. With written and BSL video posts readily appreciated, Deaf Opinions is a place is likely to be useful for anyone who is deaf.

In addition to the new Deafland Facebook page, the team at Deaf Opinions are also looking at other development options, with a Deaf Opinions event something that the team will consider in the future. For now, the emphasis is on continuing to build Deaf Opinions, with anyone welcome to join in and contribute.

At SLFirst, we wish the team at Deaf Opinions the best of luck.

Article by Sean Midnight

posted in Community / Deaf Life

25th January 2015