Amanda Everitt, National Deaf Children's Society

My name is Amanda Everitt and I’m a Participation Officer at the National Deaf Children's Society (NDCS). NDCS is dedicated to creating a world without barriers for deaf children and young people. I use the wonderful language of British Sign Language (BSL) because I am deaf. I’m originally from New Zealand, where I completed a law degree before emigrating to the UK. 

Describe your role

I work on the Buzz, an interactive website for deaf young people aged 8–18 and form part of the Participation team at NDCS. We support the involvement of deaf children and young people within the organisation. More recently I have been working on our young people's deaf awareness campaign – Look, Smile, Chat.

The Buzz is one of the main areas of my work. I manage the day to day running of the site and provide exciting information, cool topics and stories for young people to access. Young people told us they wanted this website through our youth consultation in 2007. We then worked together with six schools to develop the site. Since then, we have continued to work with deaf children and young people to make sure the Buzz includes lots of useful and interesting information, that is written in a way that is age and culturally appropriate.

Over the last year, NDCS’s Young People’s Advisory Board (YAB) has been working on the new deaf awareness campaign. Look, Smile, Chat is aimed at making hearing young people more deaf aware through a series of lesson plans, videos and deaf awareness tips. We worked with deaf and hearing young people to create the resources.

Hearing young people had many questions about deafness. Some talked about what they would miss if they were deaf and how they thought they could improve communication with their deaf friends. Some of them mentioned that it takes confidence to go up to a deaf person and start a conversation.

Look out for our campaign, which launches during deaf awareness week 7–13 May 2012.

What makes a good participation worker?

A good participation worker for children and young people should be dedicated to involving children from all sectors of society, including those who are hard to reach, like deaf young people. They should be creative, committed to improving their practice and developing their skills. They should be welcoming and friendly, and show a willingness to learn about different communication methods – as every child is different. They shouldn’t be worried about tapping into others’ expertise or booking communication support – this is key to working with deaf children and young people. As with all participation workers, you need to stay on top of new ideas in participation or anything else to do with the world of children and young people (or try to!). Make sure you set up those Google alerts and monitor those Twitter feeds – you could be missing a trick or a fantastic opportunity for young people!

My final tip would be to make sure to have lots of contact with children and young people, as it’s so easy to get stuck in the office and be swamped by other work!

What are the barriers to involving children and young people?

There are so many barriers to involving deaf children and young people: Other people’s attitudes; unwelcome atmosphere; deaf children and young people not knowing they can get involved or about the support they can get. I’m passionate about seeing deafness in a positive light so deaf children and young people can lead exciting lives. Given the right support, deaf children can do anything other children can do. There is no reason they cannot be involved in decision making if everything is accessible. I believe that communication support and accessibility is key.

Deaf children need to be able to communicate effectively, access information and influence the world around them by any appropriate method, whether through sign language, oral communication or a combination of approaches.

What are the benefits?

The benefits are huge for us and the young people we work for and with. Our work is more informed and meaningful. Young people will hopefully become confident in lots of different areas of their lives and will be involved in something wonderful. They’ll become more empowered when they see that their views have been heard and that they have made change happen. Everyone will learn from the whole process, and this learning should inform future work.

What tips do you have for effective participation of children and young people?

Effective participation is about accessibly, creativity and change. It’s about involving children and young people in decisions that affect them, keeping in mind how those that are hard to reach can be involved in the same way as their peers. We should be thinking about partnership with the appropriate services and people who have direct access to children and young people. The National Deaf Children’s Society is only too pleased to give support and advice on how you can involve deaf young people in your work – just get in touch!

Participation Works is a partnership of…
British Youth CouncilChildren's Rights Alliance for EnglandKIDSNational Council for Voluntary Youth ServicesNational Youth AgencyNCB