Videoconferencing Pilot project to Connect Deaf Nunavummiut

Hon. Leona Aglukkaq, Dr. James MacDougall and Oana Spinu conversing with pilot project participant Clayton Ungungai via remote sign language interpreter

Connecting deaf Nunavummiut through videoconferencing

The use of videoconferencing technologies has been identified as a great tool to provide deaf people access to services and promote their full social inclusion, however this is the first time the technologies were tested in Nunavut on this scale. While no one technology will meet everyone’s needs all the time, the pilot demonstrated that, with access to videoconferencing tools such as the video phone used in this pilot, deaf Nunavummiut can enjoy the same communication experiences as those people who are able to hear. And making such videoconferencing technologies accessible to deaf Nunavummiut can contribute to their full social inclusion in Nunavut society and indeed Canadian society.

The pilot was launched in November of 2012 and continued until March 31, 2013. NBDC was fortunate to partner with Dr. James MacDougall of the Canadian Deafness Research and Training Institute, who has a long history of working with Nunavut’s deaf community. Dr. MacDougall helped identify participants from across Nunavut.

A press conference for the pilot project was held on April 10. The event included a demonstration of remote sign language interpretation via videoconference. The Hon. Leona Aglukkaq spoke on behalf of the federal government, Oana Spinu spoke on behalf of NBDC, and Dr. James MacDougall spoke on behalf of the Canadian Deafness Research and Training Institute. The director of the Nunavummi Disabilities Makinnasuaqtiit Society, Wendy Ireland, was also in attendance. Through the press conference and demo, the pilot project received significant media coverage in both print and television. The project has also been recognized in the legislative assembly by the Hon. Mr. Aupaluktuq, MLA for Baker Lake, who commented in a May 7 statement:

Initiatives such as this represent an important step forward towards a more inclusionary and welcoming society for all of our people.

The pilot project was initiated alongside a CLEY-funded project with CDRTI to strengthen the understanding of Inuit Sign Language (ISL) and document its existence as well as understand regional variations of the language. The pilot therefore touches on the key Infrastructure II themes of health, language, and strengthening intercommunity links.