Auto-driven Photo-Elicitation Interviews with Young Deaf People
This chapter explores the suitability of auto-driven photo-elicitation interviews in qualitative research with young deaf participants. Deaf people are often called ‘people of the eye’, with much cultural and biological research supporting the view that they have a uniquely visual experience of life (Bahan in Memoir upon the formation of a visual variety of the human race, 2004; Bavelier et al. in Trends in Cognitive Science 10(11):512–518, 2006; Thoutenhoofd in See deaf: on sight in deafness, 2011). However, it is also the case that educators are failing to take advantage of this visual way of experiencing the world, and as such deaf young people are leaving school with poor language skills in both spoken/written and signed modalities, placing limits on their ability to communicate and express themselves (Knoors and Marschark in Teaching deaf learners. Oxford University Press, London, 2014). Meaningful research with deaf people requires an understanding of the following; (1) the visual nature of being deaf; (2) the importance of using visual research methods so that research performed with deaf people benefits from this unique visucentrism; and (3) how to empower deaf young people, a traditionally oppressed minority, within the research situation. This study found that visual methods, such as photo-elicitation, ease communication difficulties within the interview process for deaf participant(s) as well as for the researcher particularly when mixed communication methods (i.e. a mixture of spoken and sign language) are used, as photographs are a tangible reference point (Marquez-Zenkov in Visual Studies 22(2):138–154, 2007). Auto-driven photo-elicitation interviews can also equalise power relations within the interview dyad by allowing the research participant to take the lead, a consideration of particular importance when working with people from traditionally oppressed communities, such as the deaf community. Finally, the use of visually motivated research not only supports communication in interviews with young deaf people, but also offers a uniquely appropriate method to understand deaf ontologies, or ways of being (O’Brien and Kusters in Innovations in deaf studies: the role of deaf scholars. Oxford University Press, London, 2017).
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