Online help for South Africa's deaf children

Online help through innovative technology could soon be available for South African deaf children to report abuse and receive counselling.

Childline South Africa is currently testing a video relay service which would enable deaf children to make web calls to the non-profit organisation using a laptop webcam.

The service will include a sign language interpreter and a counsellor.

It’s part of a bigger pilot project — implemented in KwaZulu-Natal with Deafkidz International to provide hard of hearing youngsters with facilities to disclose abuse and enhance their access to social support services.

The project is being funded by Comic Relief.

“Research evidence has shown that in South Africa‚ safeguarding provision for deaf children and young people is inadequate‚ and that abuse against deaf children and young people is prevalent as there are no accessible channels by which they are able to disclose what has happened‚ or is happening to them‚” said Sikholiwe Siziba‚ project manager of Signing Safe Futures SA.

Siziba said laptops with special software have been earmarked to be set up in schools for deaf children‚ which they can use to contact Childline SA. The service was not yet available for the public‚ but was still in its test phase.

She explained how the video calling system would work: “Children would be able to dial Childline via the dial button on the laptop pre-loaded with specialist software‚ with a webcam and Ethernet port. The call would be routed to Childline via a sign language interpreter.”

The interpreter would act as an intermediary between deaf children and Childline counsellors.

“The interpreter will see the deaf child signing on their screen and will convey their words to the counsellor. The interpreter will translate the counsellor’s reply in sigh language for the deaf child to see on their screen.”

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