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Day 1: Deaf inclusion and agency through storymaking in Indonesia

18 May, 2020

Members of iSLanDS continue to work around the world to conduct research and share skills with deaf communities, and this week we have prepared a series of updates to share with you.

Today’s update is from our reader, Nick Palfreyman, about our pioneering pilot project, Deaf young people’s stories in Indonesia, supported by the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).

Many deaf people around the world are unable to challenge inadequate deaf education systems precisely because those systems have failed them. With this in mind, iSLanDS has teamed up with Prof. Candice Satchwell, who leads the award-winning Stories2Connect project, to unleash the power of stories to raise the inclusion and agency of deaf people in Indonesia.

Three themes, three stories

Back in February, our research hub PUPET organised a two-day workshop with 12 deaf people from Bekasi and Solo. The aims of the workshop: to look at examples of stories told in sign languages, identify themes from shared experiences as deaf people, and then to develop stories based on those themes using participatory methods.


Workshop participants, with facilitator (Muhammad Isnaini) and visitors (Sandra, Nick).

Three themes emerged in the workshop:

  1. finding a school that is accessible for a young deaf person;
  2. winning a competition against the odds; and
  3. persuading one’s parents to allow one to marry another deaf person.

Each of these themes is well-known to deaf community members in Indonesia.

From this point, participants created storyboards and grouped themselves according to theme; each group then created a roleplay for their theme. After that, the groups worked on repackaging the roleplays as narratives, which were filmed.

One of the reasons for creating these stories is to increase the amount of online sign language literature in BISINDO (Indonesian Sign Language). This is particularly important for deaf children, who currently have very few examples of stories and other texts in their first language. We expect that the stories will also be of interest to hearing parents of deaf children in Indonesia, who have little awareness of the lived experiences of deaf adults.

Feedback from participants

Here is some of the positive feedback that we got from participants at the end of this workshop:

  • “I now realise how few accessible stories are available online in BISINDO”
  • “Working in groups was productive, I enjoyed it”
  • “The roleplays were very enjoyable”
  • “It makes me want to go away and find more stories”
  • “Deaf children will be able to understand our stories”
  • “I never realised that stories have a structure – a beginning, a middle and an end!”
  • “It was nice to share our similar experiences”
  • “I feel proud that we can share our stories on youtube!”

We would like to thank all of the participants, and the facilitator, Muhammad Isnaini, for helping to make the workshop such a success.

Watch this space…

The stories are currently being edited, and will be launched in the next couple of months. We will let you know when they are available.

For those who are interested, some excellent examples of British Sign Language literature can be found here.

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