Virtual Auslan Service Hub in regional, rural and remote areas

Virtual Auslan Service Hub in regional, rural and remote areas
Organisation: Deaf Services Queensland
Contact: Michelle Crozier

This project developed an ‘Auslan Hub’ and Community of Practice to test various methods of improving access to Auslan information and services across Queensland. Four techniques were tested: Teaching Auslan at home to parents and families, providing teletherapy to people at a distance, setting up kiosk sites in community centres for providing Auslan Video Remote Interpreting and Deaf Awareness Training to NDIA and related staff in the Queensland roll-out areas.

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The Context

The transition to the NDIS has significantly raised expectations of the Deaf community that they will have access to Auslan delivered services, irrespective of where they live. For the Deaf community, limited access to these services is not only due to geographical distance but also to shortages of qualified workers, including Auslan users, even near city centres.  Being part of a thin market means access to specialised services is inequitable and inconsistent.

The Problem

Deaf Services Queensland (DSQ) has been unable to meet demand for therapy interventions in regional, rural and remote areas. In addition, DSQ’s information and service provision is hampered by a shortage of local of interpreters. As a result, there has been significant unmet need in the areas of awareness raising, interpreters and specialised speech therapy interventions, particularly in in regional, rural and remote areas.

The Solution

Under the Innovative Workforce Fund, DSQ designed an ‘Auslan Hub’ to test various methods of improving access to information and services in Auslan across Queensland. The Hub also has the potential to facilitate virtual speech therapy, the loaning of iPads for Video Remote Interpreting (VRI), virtual Auslan Kiosks, Auslan classes, virtual Support Coordination and virtual Deafness Awareness Training to stakeholders.

Expected Impact

<span style="font-size:12px"><span style="font-family:&quot;Arial&quot;,sans-serif">The initial project concept was ambitious (across six service areas) and across the state on a small amount of money and of time.  Given the constraints or money and time, this was a developmental groundwork project where time was spent preparing the soil before delivery to ensure success in delivery. This meant everything from recruiting partners to restructuring our IT department, training staff, hosting community launches and negotiating platform changes with the developer. All tests worked to some extent, but were hampered by slowness from partners, technological failures and staff shortages.</span></span>

Stage and Spread

This project successfully developed a kiosk service in Bundaberg, delivered Deafness Awareness Training in Bundaberg, commenced Auslan II training via virtual circuit (VC) to students in Mackay, commenced Auslan at Home, scheduled delivery of the iPad Scheme and commenced Virtual Therapy. Through the course of the project, it was recognised that capacity building is better supported through developing communities of practice around virtual service delivery, regardless of service type.

Lessons and Insights

  • Resources:  Enough time, staff and technology is needed to optimise the virtual experience.
  • Relationships: Time is needed to build relationships with partners such as neighbourhood centres, NDIA staff and internal stakeholders.
  • Quality: Attitude is key and the environment matters. People need to be able to give feedback and for that to be received and learned from.
  • Technology: A smooth IT experience, along with appropriate training and real time support, will make the Auslan Hub thrive.
  • Building capacity: Staff, the Deaf community, partners and all stakeholders need to be able to successfully access the Hub. Capacity building is best supported through developing communities of practice around virtual service delivery regardless of service type.
  • Promotion and engagement: All stakeholders need to understand what services are available, staff need to be empowered to work across teams, and the Deaf community and partners need to be engaged.
  • Accessibility: After-hours delivery, simple access to technology, clear guidelines and Auslan first where appropriate need to be considered.

Roadblocks and Risks

  • Deafness Awareness Training has been delivered to researchers in acknowledgement of the amount of capacity building needed in local communities to support training.
  • Time is needed to build relationships, skills and confidence locally.
  • Access to the Internet and speed in regional settings are potential roadblocks. The amount of home data allowance for participants using their own devices also needs to be considered.
  • A significant investment in capacity building is required for participants, external partners and internally at all levels. An interpreting loan scheme via a third party has been complex to establish.
  • Deafness Awareness Training for NDIA has not yet been accomplished to due complexities in accessing staff.