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Responding to the Online Protection Needs of Disabled children

WeProtect Global Alliance logo along with the DeafKidz International logo

A WeProtect Global Alliance Briefing Paper

The term disability mean different things to different people. Our perspective will depend on the meanings and feelings we attach to disability. Regrettably due to ignorance and fear, often these feelings will be negative reflecting the shame and fear of difference. These negative attitudes will focus on the child’s disability as opposed to their true personality and abilities.

For those who choose to perpetrate online abuse, a child’s or young person’s disability makes them easy prey; easy to corner, groom, stream and abuse. If as a result of your deafness or disability, you are excluded from education, you will often lack the means – the vocabulary and language – to recognise that through digital technologies, you are being abused; you will lack the means to self-represent, to self-assert and say ‘No!’. Furthermore, you lack the means to report and to disclose.

The evidence that deaf and disabled children experience endemic stigma, discrimination, abuse and exploitation is overwhelming. The evidence that they are subject to online abuse is less clear. Certainly there are some documented instances, but DeafKidz International takes the view that this is an area that the global child protection community has failed to explore and this gap in knowledge and response must be addressed.

One in three internet users worldwide is a child. At any one time, 750,000 individuals are estimated to be looking to connect with children for sexual purposes. WeProtect’s 2019 Global Threat Assessment reported that 94% of child sexual abuse material (CSAM) found online by the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) contains images of children aged 13 or under; 39% were images of children 10 and under. With the WHO reporting that 15% of the world’s population ‘is living with some form of disability, with up to 20% of this population living in low resource settings’, the size of this issue cannot be underestimated. Here we have a huge grouping of deaf and disabled children and young people who will invariably have poor self-esteem and body-image. Negative attitudes also determine whether deaf and disabled learners are excluded from education and / or sexuality education. Without knowledge of sexuality and safe behaviours there is clearly an increased risk of abuse.

Commissioned by the WeProtect Global Alliance, this all new briefing paper will see DeafKidz International consult with the global disability community to ascertain their experience of online abuse. In addition, we will consult across the WeProtect membership to document what the INGO community is doing to counter this abuse.

The findings will be published in February 2021 and presented to the Alliance and other global child protection stakeholders at an accessible Webinar.

DeafKidz International wishes to access (not an exhaustive list):

  • Examples of online child protection response frameworks and mechanisms as developed by the membership, and how these related to children with disabilities disabled children
  • Examples of any digital mitigation strategies created specifically for safeguarding children with disabilities
  • Evidence and examples of how children with disabilities are included in ‘stay safe online’ programmes targeted at children and youth, including initiatives by tech companies
  • Recommendations on how the particular challenges faced by children with disabilities can be addressed and mitigated
  • Recommends in gaps in knowledge in relation to children with disabilities and online abuse.

Please send submissions to [email protected] and [email protected] by 30 November 2020.

Announcement of DeafKidz International as End Violence Safe Online Grant Winner

We are thrilled to announce that DeafKidz International is a winner of End Violence Against Children’s Safe Online funding round. We are joining forces with 14 organisations in the global fight to end online abuse and exploitation of children.

One in three internet users worldwide is a child. With the global increase in access to the internet, brings a rise in online abuse and exploitation. Deaf children are at least three times more likely to be abused than hearing children. At any one time, 750,000 individuals are estimated to be looking to connect with children for sexual purposes.

Through this funding, DeafKidz International will develop DeafKidz Defenders, an early intervention, interactive, accessible digital platform to help deaf children aged 5 to 10 stay safe from online abuse and exploitation.

Through these educational games, deaf children will learn to protect themselves from online and face to face abuse, learning what a risk situation might look like, what’s appropriate/inappropriate in different situations, building a foundation of increased knowledge and awareness. These games will reduce deaf children’s vulnerability to abuse and exploitation while also promoting their resilience and self-advocacy. This project will be implemented in South Africa and Pakistan.

This digital solution is the first of its kind and is a huge step forward in our fight to keep deaf children safe.

We are grateful to End Violence Against Children for their investment in our organisation and the impact it will have on deaf children worldwide, to ensure every deaf child can live safely and without fear of online abuse and exploitation.

Read the full announcement from End Violence Against Children here

Watch this space for regular updates on this exciting project – follow us on social media here

Played our DEAFKIDZ vs COVID-19 games? Please help us by completing our survey!

DEAFKIDZ vs COVID-19 online games logoIn May 2020 we launched our DEAFKIDZ vs COVID-19 online interactive games, designed specifically for young deaf children to understand COVID-19 protective measures including social distancing, hand-washing and not touching the face.

We’ve had lots of engagement with the DEAFKIDZ vs COVID-19 games and we invite you to help us evaluate this excellent resource if you have played the games.

There are there questionnaires so please select the one that suits you best.

Please click one of the 3 options below to take a survey on our DEAFKIDZ vs COVID-19 games:

Questionnaire for Children

Questionnaire for Parents/Carers & Teachers

Questionnaire for Organisations

As a deaf organisation we really appreciate you completing this questionnaire as this information will be useful in providing feedback to our funders, and will assist in justifying both the creation of the game in this format, and the need for further resources in a similar format specifically for deaf children in the future. By taking part in this survey, you are helping DeafKidz International to make better resources in the future.

Thank you!

New Comic Relief Project delivering BSL workshops for deaf children

We are thrilled to announce a brand new project funded by Comic Relief delivering a series of online workshops for deaf children on drama, creative art, keeping fit and storytelling, led by deaf trainers in British Sign Language (BSL) & working with Action Deafness.

The Action Deafness, DeafKidz International, and Funded by Comic Relief logos

The situation with COVID-19 has meant that schools have been closed for several months now, limiting activities available for deaf children who can easily become isolated and fed up, negatively affecting their mental well-being.

So, funded by Comic Relief, DeafKidz International and Action Deafness have joined to deliver an exciting, interactive, fun, summer online programme, of activities (‘Action DeafKidz!’), for deaf children aged 7-15.

For 5 weeks between 3rd August to 7th September we will deliver online interactive activities, covering 4 main themes: Keeping Fit; Creative Arts; Drama; and BSL Storytelling led by deaf trainers and role models in BSL.

Please email [email protected] if you are a deaf trainer or have deaf children age 7-15 who would like to attend the summer programme.

The Action DeafKidz Logo

Launch of DEAFKIDZ vs COVID-19 online games

DeafKidz vs COVID-19 Games logo
DeafKidz International is delighted to announce the launch of our brand new DEAFKIDZ vs COVID-19 online games!

In these strange and challenging times of COVID-19, we are all concerned about how to stay safe. Although there are resources available explaining COVID-19, how it affects us, and how to minimise the spread of the virus, none have been developed in consultation with Deaf children and with their specific communication and information needs central. Yet, Deaf children, like all children, should be empowered to stay safe and to reduce their risk to infection and transmission, based on informed choice and safe behaviours.

Click here to read more and play the games!

Joint Statement from WFD, WFDYS and DeafKidz International

Responding to the Safeguarding and Protection Needs of Deaf Children during the COVID-19 Pandemic

WFD, WFDYS and DeafKidz International logos

The Covid-19 pandemic is an unprecedented global health crisis impacting communities around the world. Click below to read the joint statement from the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD), the WFD Youth Section (WFDYS) and DeafKidz International.

Click here to read the joint statement

The Merger of Sound Seekers and DeafKidz International

We are delighted to announce that with effect 3rd April 2020, Sound Seekers (The Commonwealth Society for the Deaf) will be joining forces with DeafKidz International to form a new combined charity that will be known as ‘DeafKidz International’.

This new entity, DeafKidz International, will work to comprehensively respond to the safeguarding protection, health, wellbeing and access to education needs of D/deaf children, young people and vulnerable adults in low resource, developing and complex humanitarian settings. The merger will see an enhanced DeafKidz International widen its geography and programming as its works to ensure D/deaf children, young people and vulnerable adults reduce their risk and vulnerability to abuse, whilst accessing quality ear and hearing care in the communication mode of choice and within an overarching safeguarding and protection framework; all of which draws reference to the vision, mission and values of Sound Seekers.

As DeafKidz International looks to the future, it will combine the 60 years of history, heritage, expertise and experience of Sound Seekers with the passion and innovation of DeafKidz International; positioning the new merged entity as, quite simply, the global leader working to ensure the safeguarding and protection of D/deaf children, young people and vulnerable adults; none of whom we will ever leave behind.

Frequently Asked Questions »

Addressing Gender Based Violence – Keshana’s Story, Keshana’s Leadership

Photograph of Keshana, Signing Safe Futures Coach

Keshana, Signing Safe Futures Coach

At DeafKidz International we are committed to addressing the outrage of Gender Based Violence (GBV) against D/deaf girls and women. We see GBV as the most socially tolerated human rights violation of our time, deeply rooted in tradition, inequity and ignorance. The cost of the global pandemic of GBV is beyond measure and the physical and psychological toll it takes on individual girls and women is immeasurable. Even more so if you are D/deaf and therefore the lack the means to self-advocate and self-represent; to say ‘No!’ to abuse.

In partnership with Laureus Sport for Good, we’ve been trialling in Jamaica an all D/deaf led response to the challenge of GBV. Over the last two years we’ve worked carefully to develop an approach that is led by D/deaf women and which we now plan to cascade through the wider Caribbean – Barbados, St; Lucia, Antigua – and, in partnership with Islamic Relief Worldwide, to Iraq, Pakistan and Jordan.

At the time the Signing Safe Futures trial commenced in Jamaica, Keshana was engaged in an abusive relationship with her common–law husband. Despite her initial hesitation about joining the programme, Keshana quickly realized its numerous benefits; “When I joined and saw the things that we were learning, I was like yes!…..this can help me” The abuse Keshana received at the hands of her common law husband was both verbal and physical. “He wanted to control me, I couldn’t have friends. He just wanted me there in the house to control me…He would smash my TV and phone and physically abuse me.”

Very simply, Keshana’s life changed when she learnt of Signing Safe Futures and elected to join to train as a Coach. “God chose me to join the project because of what I was going through” she said. “The project made me realize that I could defend myself. That was something I didn’t know before. After learning the martial arts techniques, dance and GBV awareness, I was empowered. When he tried to hit me the second time, I was able to defend myself. This project has given me tools on how to defend myself and know about my life as a Deaf female.”

Empowered and strengthened to realise that the relationship she was in was destructive and unsafe, Keshana decided enough was enough and that she would move out. “The last time he tried to hit me I used one of the techniques I learnt in the martial arts classes to defend myself. He was shocked and stopped the abuse immediately. He realized that I was powerful and never touched me again. The next day, I just left him, I packed by things and told him I was leaving…..he didn’t try and stop me.”

Keshana’s story is typical of the many D/deaf girls and women who experience GBV worldwide. Yet here, as a Coach and leader within the D/deaf community, Keshana has encouraged other D/deaf females to join the Signing Safe Futures programme and to remind them that, both, they have a right to stay safe from abuse and that they should stand up for their rights. “I would encourage them to join the project and many would say that they don’t have the time but I would tell them that I can meet with them privately on their schedule and I would teach them the programme.”

Inspired by Mogul, Oprah Winfrey, Keshana aims to become a great leader especially for young women. “I want people to know that D/deaf women are equal, we have the same experiences, and the same blood. Deaf women are worthy.”

Our experience at DeafKidz International is that due to the sensitivity of the subject, violence against women is universally under-reported. GBV is often shrouded in secrecy and if you lack the language or vocabulary to disclose, as is often the case with D/deaf women, doubly complicated. Survivors of GBV often feel shame and in a number of the cultures within which we work, it is not uncommon for women to be blamed for their own rape. Clinical, social welfare and criminal justice practitioners lack D/deaf awareness and so D/deaf girls and young women fail to access the support they require.

We’re committed to addressing these inequalities and to ensuring no D/deaf girl or young woman is left behind; through our Signing Safe Futures initiative we’re doing just that.

Responding to the Safeguarding and Protection Needs of D/deaf Children in Jordan

Photograph of the Zataari refugee camp on the Jordan / Syrian border

The Zataari refugee camp on the Jordan / Syrian border

This new and exciting programme is being developed in partnership with the Sir Bobby Charlton Foundation, who have generously funded our early stage assessment, and the Amman based Asia Development Training organisation, an indigenous Jordanian NGO.

Drawing reference from the assessment visits we’ve undertaken to Amman and the Zataari refugee camp on the Jordan / Syrian border, we’ve ascertained that there is currently no public health newborn, infant or children’s screening programme for D/deafness in the Kingdom; that existing Child Protection capabilities are not inclusive to the needs of D/deaf children; that there are few sign language interpreters with any formal training in sign language skills.

Consequently, there is an urgent and pressing need to secure empirical data which evidences the reality of protection, communication, ear & hearing care and access to educational provision for D/deaf CYP and their families in Jordan. This to inform the design of subsequent public health service provision and to highlight areas for capacity development. The joint partnership of DeafKidz International, the Sir Bobby Charlton Foundation and Asia Development Training organisation will work to develop approaches and methodologies to ensure the early identification of D/deaf children. In addition, our work will focus on responding to the safeguarding needs of D/deaf refugee children and it is here that our experience of supporting refugee children in Europe (France, Greece and Germany) – with Save the Children – will be invaluable.

As the global leader for the safeguarding and protection of D/deaf children, our work in Jordan represents yet another stage in our growth and learning; one that now sees DeafKidz International operational in seven geographies worldwide.


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