A project to teach intro AUSLAN signs to residential care staff and their customers to improve their quality of life

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In conjunction with Brightwater and ECU,

Phase 1 funded by Lottery West in 2021/22


Barbara teaching signing to a group of retirees

Back in 2019 BHA.wa was invited by the head of Brightwater Care Group, Jennifer Lawrence, to propose a relevant research idea for them to consider for their next Project. Barbara proposed the idea of care staff in residential settings using a few introductory Auslan signs to improve their communication with their clients. With the help of ECU researchers and their impressive PR services, Phase 1 was completed at the end of 2021.

WHY is Qsign a good idea? The main reason was that we already know at least 50% of Australians over 70 years have significant hearing loss. so, we reasoned, simple signing was likely to improve communication between carers and clients and could reduce their frustration. AND learning a new skill was likely to be more engaging for their customers too. One common way our elders — and anyone with some hearing loss — to adapt to hearing loss is to do more lipreading. But this means being able to see peoples’ lips. What if the have a face mask?

By 2020, COVID-19 had hit Australia and suddenly face masks and social distancing were the norm. So reading your carer’s lips suddenly disappeared; and staying close enough to hear them was harder.\ with social distancing.

The Qsign Project became imperative to implement, as it meant STAFF could learn some simple signs to communicate with their customers; and it we envisaged that both the STAFF and their CLIENTS would be less frustrated.

For example, imagine a carer visits your room and AS WELL AS speaking words you may not hear properly, they do two signs. If you missed their words, would it help to also see the Auslan Signs for Tea, and Coffee? Your staff member has raised their hands to make a letter T sign, and a pause, followed by grinding of two fists sign, and raised their eyebrows. Would you be LESS  frustrated when you realise that you are being asked ‘TEA or COFFEE’? At least you dont have to GUESS what is going on.

Also your family might start using these and other introductory (Qsign) signs to communicate with you.

It turns out much of the introductory Auslan signing is pretty easy for novices to decode. For example look at the video where Barbara, acting like a carer who knows some simple signing, has a conversation with Mr Mophead one morning…

See the sample video…

Add Qsign logo, Auslan signs for Coffee, Tea

Captions to explain each of them…