The project addresses the problem of social exclusion of Deaf people living in and around Olsztyn. It is estimated that there are between 60,000 and 100,000 Deaf people living in Poland. They still experience systemic discrimination, lack access to information, infrastructure and public services; they are being treated condescendingly by the hearing majority, including loved ones. Hearing people in Poland are unaware of the situation and the needs of the Deaf community and often base their knowledge on stereotypes. Knowledge of Polish Sign Language (PSL) in Polish society is negligible and the availability of interpreters and translators is very limited. There are only 4 professional PSL interpreters in the Warminsko-Mazurskie voivodship.
As part of the project, various activities were carried out targeting the Deaf, their environment and professionals providing public services. A Deaf self-advocacy group was set up and met regularly to discuss a range of issues of concern to members and the wider community. Following preparatory training, these self-advocates facilitated 10 workshops for health workers (178 people in total) in various hospitals in the region. The workshops focused on Deaf culture and needs and the accessibility of services provided by hospitals and clinics. The project also trained volunteers and organised volunteer teaching for the hearing children of deaf parents. Deaf people were provided with legal and civic counselling and psychological support.
Thanks to the project, Deaf people have received various types of support in their daily functioning, increased their self-confidence, developed problem-solving skills and self-reliance, and been empowered in their role as self-advocates. The availability of social services for the Deaf community in Olsztyn and the surrounding area has increased. Healthcare staff have been sensitised to the needs of Deaf people and to what constitutes proper communication between a Deaf person and a hearing person and a sign language interpreter.