The Online Experience in the Deaf Community  — Lionesses of Africa

The aim of the market research was to understand the online experience in the Deaf community; and explore their frustrations, barriers, opinions, and suggestions to improve. The data collected will be used to identify gaps in the digital market for content creators and brands; provide solutions in making online information more inclusive and accessible; while encouraging collaboration and innovation. 

We conducted our online research between the 24th – 30th May 2021. The 60 respondents ranged from identifying themselves as culturally Deaf to being Hard-of-Hearing; and majority resided in Johannesburg, Cape Town, and KZN. From the pool of 60 participants, 7 individuals were selected for in-depth video recorded interviews. These interviews were aimed at further engaging their responses from the survey and better understanding their personal online experiences. Topical themes were as follows:

1. Background Information

53.3% of our respondents were male, 46.7% being female. 

Age groups ranged from (16-25 years) 10%, (36 -45 years) 31.7%, and (26-35 years) 53.3%.

2. Online Platforms

95% of our respondents use WhatsApp; followed by Facebook 71.7%; and Instagram 56%.

Regarding internet connection, 58.3% use data to go online; followed by 35% having Wi-Fi connection at home; and only 6.7% using public WIFI connections.

The content people enjoy online watching include entertainment 65%; followed by sports 43.3%; and educational programs came in at 41.7%.

3. What is a podcast?

Respondents were given an opportunity to provide short answers for this question. Majority did not know what a podcast is, while others came close – answers included: ‘Online information via voice’ ‘An episodic series of spoken word’ ‘Interviews and discussions online’ ‘Podcasts should be available in video chat’.

4. Barriers to online information

Expensive data costs came in at 58.3%; poor network connection was a barrier for 50% of participants; and lastly load shedding affected 38.3% when using the internet.

Furthermore, having no interpreter for online content 78.3%; no subtitles 63.3%; and people speaking too fast 33.3% caused a challenge for users online.

5. Interpreters 

Some suggestions were given on how interpreters could improve their skills online: 61.7% said SASL structure needed to improve and 58.3% said socialising in the Deaf community could help interpreters get better.

6. Pandemic

Lastly, the biggest challenge during the pandemic for most respondents was wearing a face mask – as this hid important speech and facial expression needed to convey meaning during communication. While 40% suffered unemployment during these uncertain times.

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