The Supportive Roles of Adults in Designing with Young Deaf Children
Involving users in the research and design of new technologies is particularly relevant for groups affected by digital exclusion and lacking in cultural power, such as people with disabilities, people from cultural minorities, and children. Design with young Deaf children lies at the intersection of these three groups, as the medical community defines physical deafness as a disability; Deaf communities around the world identify as minority cultural groups with their own languages; and young children traditionally lack power in interactions with adults. Deaf children bring particular needs, abilities and experiences related to their youth, physical deafness and cultural Deafness to the technology design process, making their involvement in design vital. Their involvement presents a unique set of challenges and ethical considerations, including matters of consent and behaviour management. Adult involvement in supportive roles can facilitate young Deaf children’s involvement in design activities and address some of the challenges of designing with Deaf children.
This article presents a case study that involved young Australian Deaf children as design partners, with their family members and Deaf and hearing education professionals in supportive roles, for the purpose of providing recommendations to researchers and designers who wish to undertake similar design activities with young Deaf children and supportive adults. The case study involved a series of 30-minute design sessions with four Deaf children (ages 3-5). Reflections on this case study will discuss the roles adult design team members took throughout the design sessions, the benefits and challenges of involving adults as members of design teams with young Deaf children, and ethical considerations to be addressed when designing with young Deaf children in design teams. The article concludes with recommendations for researchers and designers conducting design sessions with young Deaf children and adult supporters, so that young Deaf child designers are well-supported and have the freedom to explore their preferences, desires, requirements, and to contribute to design solutions.