Using video technology to engage deaf sign language users in survey research: An example from the Insign project


  • Jemina Napier Heriot-Watt University
  • Katherine Lloyd Heriot-Watt University
  • Robert Skinner Heriot-Watt University
  • Graham H Turner Heriot-Watt University
  • Mark Wheatley European Union of the Deaf


Deaf, sign language, video technology, online survey research, International Sign


For many deaf signers, a signed language is their first or preferred language; spoken or written languages are often second languages and literacy levels among deaf signers vary. Historically, surveys carried out with deaf signers have been in written form, which means that findings of such studies may be problematic in terms of whether participants are a representative sample (as only those with higher levels of literacy may respond) and in terms of the integrity of the responses (if respondents did not fully understand questions). This paper therefore discusses issues faced in conducting survey research with deaf signers, given that they may face challenges in accessing questionnaires in written form. The paper also discusses how to conduct a multi-country study with deaf signers when they do not have a common sign language by designing a questionnaire using International Sign. We present a case study of the Insign project, which employed an online survey methodology that allowed 84 deaf respondents from 22 different countries to view questions in International Sign about their experiences with existing communication technologies and their expectations of service provision to access European Institutions. We explore the advantages and disadvantages of such an approach in relation to the use of International Sign, challenges in recruiting enough respondents, the time needed to create a signed questionnaire instrument, and how to enable deaf participants to respond in sign language. We conclude with recommendations for social science researchers to consider when administering surveys with deaf signing communities.