Deafblind community affected by lack of touch

Hands holding

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An 18 month project has been launched to investigate the impact of touch deprivation on the deafblind community during the pandemic.

The Touch Post-COVID-19 project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Arts and quantum technology researchers will work together on the project.

Documenting lived experience

The researchers will investigate sense perception as experienced by individuals with audio visual impairment. They will also develop new technologies to help facilitate safe and reliable communication and interaction with surroundings.

Touch Post COVID-19 will add to research on:

  • the development of communication tools
  • strategies to aid accessibility for deafblind people.

Touch is a vital connection

Dr Azadeh Emadi, the project’s principal investigator, said:

Touching is now considered to threaten lives, but it remains a vital connection to the world for those deafblind people.

For deafblind communities who rely on touch to navigate the world, the fear of touch and intimacy in post-COVID society is likely to continue to impose new challenges and increase social isolation for deafblind communities.

But we also feel that society as a whole can learn from the deafblind communities about how to navigate a world where we are limited to social interactions due to COVID-19.

Safe interactions

Professor Daniele Faccio, an expert in quantum technology, said:

We hope to develop new contactless technologies assisted by artificial intelligence to help facilitate safe and reliable interactions for the deafblind community.

The plan is to use some of the technology currently being developed on another project at the University of Glasgow to create unobtrusive sensing technology which will be able to ‘read’ the surrounding environment and then provide haptic or touch cues for deafblind individuals.

The important thing for us is that this new technology will be co-created directly with members of the deafblind community.

Working in partnership

The researchers at the University of Glasgow are working in partnership with both Deafblind UK and Deafblind Scotland on the Touch Post-COVID-19 project.

Gillian Mooney, Development Officer, Deafblind Scotland, said:

We hope, through this partnership with the University of Glasgow, we can increase awareness of dual sensory impaired individuals and in turn improve their quality of life. The possibility of new tools and strategies to benefit the deafblind community across the UK is exciting and invaluable. We also know that our members and their experiences have much to offer the academic and wider community.

Last updated: 25 March 2021

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