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The Deaf World Online

by Charlie Swinbourne

1st March 2010

Twenty years ago, if you wanted to find out what was going on in the deaf world, or maybe even meet a few deaf people, your options were pretty limited. You could watch See Hear, contact your local deaf centre by snail mail, or attend a few Deaf social nights in the hope that someone might actually speak or sign to you. But put it this way, it was a slow and painful process.

Now, with the rise of the internet, there are all kinds of resources online, making it easy to find out all about the deaf world without even leaving your home. There are in fact so many deaf related websites, that it can be difficult to know where to start looking. Below you’ll find a few of my favourites – enjoy!

TV and Videos

Man using lap top computer
Sign Post, based in the north-east, offers world news in BSL, as well as giving sign language enthusiasts the chance to learn a new sign every day., has some fantastic signed stories for children. A site which I’ve found particularly useful since the arrival of my daughter Martha.

The BBC’s Sign Zone regularly broadcasts programmes with BSL translation in the early hours of the morning – but if staying up for them is leaving you a little red-eyed, check out BBC iPlayer’s Sign Zone category. Here, you can catch up on sign interpreted shows whenever you like.

The British Sign Language Broadcasting Trust was set up in 2008 to increase the amount of sign language presented programming on television. On their website you'll find two entire series of their magazine show 'Wicked', a chat show called 'Under the Lamp' and dramas for young and old, all in BSL with subtitles.

Sign Tube is the deaf version of You Tube, but it's more like a community portal, with a regularly updated bank of clips from deaf football matches and social events.

Deaf Blogs

Deaf Read gathers a host of deaf blogs into one handy location, and allows you to see how popular each blog post is by how many visits its had.

My favourite personal blogs by deaf authors are Hearing Sparks which is written by Megan, 23, from Arizona (wife and geek), and Deafinitely Girly, who bills herself as "deaf in the city and having fun".

Groups and Messageboards

If you’re interested in contributing to deaf online forums and groups, you'll find a veritable feast of them at Yahoo! Groups.

You could choose to join Deaf UK Chat or Hard of Hearing UK depending on how deaf you feel!

Deaf and looking for a job? Then check out Deaf UK Jobs. Then there's Deaf UK which has nearly 3000 members and features deaf news, lively discussion and information about deaf events.

Outside of Yahoo! Groups, Deaf 4 Life is a messageboard aiming for a community feel. It has recently been taken over by a new owner, and is starting to become more active again.

If you prefer to read something in a more traditional format, newspaper The Hearing Times – which despite the name, is for deaf, rather than hearing people - allows you to subscribe to an online version for free.
Cinema tickets with popcorn

Arts and Culture

There's no equivalent in this country to the,Deaf Professional Arts Network known as D-PAN, based in America. Their site features the work of different deaf artists every month along with some exceptional sign song videos.

Back in the UK, check out the websites of Deaf performing arts companies such as Deafinitely Theatre, Sign Dance Collective and the award-winning Derby 3D Deaf Drama. Then there's D-Roots, a brand new theatre company specialising in deaf theatre for children and young people.

If accessible mainstream theatre is more your thing, Stagetext has a country-wide list of upcoming captioned shows, while the unfortunately named SPIT (short for Signed Performances in Theatre) lists every BSL interpreted performance happening in the UK.

For movie buffs like me, has a list of subtitled cinema screenings all over the country.
Person using British Sign Language

Learning BSL

Sign Station hosts an amazing online resource, where (after registering), you can watch a video of any sign you like at their online BSL dictionary. There’s also a mobile version for people who want to sign on the go.

If you are looking for an actual, physical, face to face BSL course, the website of Signature, an organisation which "promotes excellence in communication with deaf and deafblind people", has a learners section, with a handy function that enables you to type in your postcode and find the nearest centre offering sign language courses.

Social Networks

The most popular website with deaf people at the moment is Facebook. One of my favourite deaf Facebook groups is Deaf Photographers all Round the World, where members post photos as good as anything you'd find in a glossy magazine!

Facebook is also the best bet if you’re looking to find a deaf pub meet in your local area. In the 'Groups' section of the site, simply type in the words ‘deaf pub’ and search. You’ll find results in Nottingham, Cardiff, and Central London, plus many more. Within seconds of my search, I was a click away from getting a round in and stretching my fingers!

Deaf charities and organisations

If you’re new to the deaf world, you might be interested in finding out about the range of deaf charities and organizations there are out there catering for different groups within the community.

The heart of the Sign Community is the British Deaf Association, who campaign for "the legislation of BSL" and "the right for all Deaf children to receive bilingual education, using BSL and English."

The National Deaf Children’s Society caters for "every deaf child" while Deaf Parenting UK focuses on parents who are deaf, offering courses, an email group and a regular newsletter.

The RNID website features not only information on every aspect of deafness, but also a very useful equipment section where you can buy everything from headphones that are compatible with hearing aids, to doorbell alerts.

If all else fails…

A great website to use as a starting point is Deaf Club which features regularly updated deaf news as well as links to all manner of deaf-related websites!

So there you have it. A marathon journey through what I would consider to be the best Deaf websites in the UK.

All I can say now is enjoy the journey – just don’t forget that there’s a physical world out there too!


    • 1. At 4:29pm on 04 Mar 2010, peskypeople wrote:

      Brilliant list I'm telling everyone I know (that isn't Deaf).

      Can you add Pesky People website to your list of what's out there - a Deaf led campaign to improve digital access for Deaf and Disabled people.

      Thank you.


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    • 2. At 11:36am on 05 Mar 2010, deafyladvocate wrote:

      Hang your head in shame - what about Sign-Now and SignVideo as the best alternatives to TypeTalk??? These both are online video relay and interpreting services.

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    • 3. At 5:00pm on 04 Apr 2010, Megan wrote:

      Thanks very much for your wonderful comment on my blog. And a wonderful article with a lot of resources, too!

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    • 4. At 5:55pm on 12 Apr 2010, M M wrote:

      My one claim to fame is being kicked out of them all lol... yahoo groups are virtually unused and run by the same people all the time, the welsh yahoo gets 2-6 comments a month if they are lucky. Most political deaf output is not based in the UK at all but in America, Britain lacking the wherewithal to run an aggregate. Deaf UK is a shadow of what it was, where are the THRIVING deaf areas, the BSL things are lessons not expressions of the deaf viewpoint. Britain doesn't seem to have that. You could have pointed out NO deaf charity has an input access point ! The RNID withdrew their open access a few years ago, the BDA never had it. I just wish plugs for the deaf community in the UK were compiled with honesty, we're in dire straits representation wise.

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    • 5. At 8:42pm on 17 Apr 2010, Tim wrote:

      I think it's well worth pointing out the glaring contradiction that while the world opens up to deaf people on-line, the RNID, our "representative" charity slams the door in our faces by cutting their general forum.

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    • 6. At 02:04am on 21 Apr 2010, HeartSinger wrote:

      Just in case anyone is interested, The US equivalent of is -- deaf people in the US use that to find subtitled films (except, there, it's called "captioned" films if the subtitles are written specifically for deaf people; in the US, subtitles refer to subtitles used on foreign films for hearing people who don't know the spoken language of the film)

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    • 7. At 10:33am on 05 May 2010, M M wrote:

      May I suggest captioned cinema is a non-starter ? I've rarely seen half a dozen deaf ever using it, where it existed. I think in many cases this is access for access sake in deaf terms. Every deaf person I know prefers to wait for the DVD or hire it. The reasons are two-fold, you can watch it any time in the comfort of your home, and it is cheaper than traversing half way across the UK at great expense, to find a cinema that will show it accessibly perhaps only on certain days of the week. So I have to wait a month or so, it's NOT a big deal in access terms, I only attend the cinema rarely anyway...

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