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Common Signs Research Group: promoting social inclusion of hard of hearing citizen scientists

Gabriella Gálné, a senior researcher at the Common Signs Research Group and the local Living Lab, talks about the YouCount case study in Szeged.

How it all began?

The University of Szeged researchers organised the recruitment of our research team in the summer of 2021, and in September, they published a new call for applications. They were looking for young deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) people who would like to participate in an international research project focusing on the social inclusion of DHH youth. 

Our YouCount research team in Szeged formed last September with 10 researchers, and then two more joined us, so we now have 12 researchers. There are 6 hearing impaired and 6 hearing researchers.

I joined the team in September and by now, I am a senior member. Being involved in research was not only a challenge for me, but I felt that I fitted in and that is how I experience our common work up to the present moment.

Getting to know each other first was important so that we could think together in this exploratory process. In preparation for the research, we shared our experiences, both positive and negative, in the group, encouraging each other to try to face difficulties in our daily lives. We should not be afraid to ask for help and to let those around us know that we are hearing impaired, as this is a very important factor in our everyday life and in research.

We support each other every step of the way because we are aware that a significant proportion of young people with a hearing impairment are at risk of social exclusion, all over the world.

What objectives are guiding us?

The primary goal of the research group, which we have named Common Signs Research Group and Living Lab, is to facilitate the aspirations of young people with hearing impairment (15-29 years old) in Szeged towards an autonomous, adult, fulfilling life by organizing collective thinking and action. To this end, we apply the citizen social science and participatory research methodology developed in the YouCount project.

Why is participatory research relevant?

We use participatory research to promote the social inclusion of people with impaired hearing. This is necessary to actively and effectively engage with people in the community. In this way, we can effectively start the process of moving together with our fellow citizens towards our common goals.

Research process and methods

Between September 2021 and January 2022, we focused on team building with the research team. During our learning together, we familiarised ourselves with applicable research methods - mainly qualitative methods, which included interviews and focus group discussions. Based on the analysis of the interview, several research questions were formulated, three of which were selected.

Social network mapping: what are the resources (free and cost-based) that facilitate the social integration of young people with hearing impairment in and around Szeged?

Labour market opportunities: what are the real opportunities for young people with hearing impairment in Szeged to find and integrate into the labour market? What actions can we take to increase the real opportunities for young hearing impaired people in Szeged to find and integrate into the labour market, to make use of their talents and to live their full human potential?

Education system: How could the university/secondary school educational environment be made more inclusive for hearing impaired students in Szeged?

What are the most important areas for research?

  • Social inclusion
  • Labour market
  • Education
The areas listed above are the most important for our research, and we need to look at the chances of young people with hearing impairment entering the labour market. To do this, we need to establish contacts with companies that employ people with a disability. We need to ensure equal opportunities for them, taking into account the different legislation.

Equal opportunities and accessibility are also important in the field of education because we must ensure that all people with hearing impairments have the opportunity to study in different institutions according to their abilities. Social inclusion is an essential factor, so it is important to create a network of stakeholders that serves their interests in all areas of life.

The conceptual web of the research team

Copyright: Gálné Gabriella

Our professional debut 

 The first professional presentation of the Szeged research group took place on 16 May 2022, where the invited stakeholders were members of organisations, institutions and companies working for equal opportunities and advocacy for the hearing impaired in Szeged. Everyone in the room joined in the friendly discussion. I felt very good to be able to present our activities so far, which were welcomed by the participants, who also expressed their support.

Expectations for the future 

From September 2022, we will focus on expanding our network of stakeholders. We think it is important to have more hearing impaired members in the group, so we are contacting the Péter Klúg School for the Hearing Impaired and the National Association of Deaf and Hard of Hearing People (SINOSZ) in Szeged, of which I have become the president so that I can support our research group more effectively. Within the network of stakeholders, we are trying to assess the possibilities that can greatly contribute to the effectiveness of our research.

I believe it is important to promote equal opportunities in all areas of society. We need to act to implement the law and notice how important our research and activities are to the outside world, where hearing impaired people can work with hearing people.

Looking ahead, we will be working towards using the YouCount SPOTTERON app to record and analyse research data, which we will report on by the next year. I am curious to see what the results will generate.

We are planning to hold a national workshop in May 2023, with the participation of the research team members and stakeholders from Szeged, where we will present our research results and actions achieved.

It is a very exciting time for us, as we are now at the stage of our research where we can reach a wider network of stakeholders. I believe that doors can be opened for us to advance the rights of the hearing impaired, and also to explore the possibilities that are available to us to work effectively with research members within the research group and outside the university.

For me, it is always a great pleasure to be involved in research processes, because as a participant and stakeholder alike, I believe it is very important to overcome barriers and make everything accessible to people with hearing loss, just as it is for their hearing peers, thus promoting the social inclusion of people with hearing impairment.

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Thursday, 06 October 2022

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