Auslan app adapted for hospital use

·2-min read

Two Australian hospitals are taking steps to ensure deaf people can access better healthcare.

Royal Hobart Hospital and Albury Wodonga Health has partnered with Expression Australia to trial the new app to increase awareness among healthcare workers.

The program allows healthcare workers to access modules on how to communicate regularly used phrases or questions when treating deaf patients.

It is hoped the app will help provide information until an Auslan interpreter can arrive, or via video call.

Expression Australia CEO Nicky Long said the project was designed to improve the health care experiences of the deaf community.

She said hospitals involved in the trial presented opportunities to offer extra support in regional areas, which often have less access to interpreters.

Communication cards and a triage toolkit was also available to workers within these providers, Ms Long told AAP.

Other hospitals not part of the trial can also access those extra resources.

She said the long term plan was to give healthcare workers the basic tools to communicate with deaf patients.

"The Auslan Anywhere program was developed some time ago, but the next step was to include the healthcare industry," Ms Long said.

"It's a way of trying to bridge the gap between when the patient presents and an interpreter arrives. We think the best way forward is always to have an interpreter available ... So this is about upskilling health professionals."

According to a 2020 study of deaf and hard of hearing Australians' experiences in health systems conducted by Expression Australia as part of the project, 51 per cent indicated being unable to give informed consent due to lack of communication.

Forty-five per cent reported feeling unsafe accessing healthcare due to language and cultural barriers present.

Deaf woman Olivia Beasely, 23, moved from Sydney to Melbourne and said the project was already making a significant difference.

"Now that I know those resources are available, I have an expectation that the hospital should know how to support me," she said.

"Future doctors and nurses can feel empowered and it can become commonplace and reduce the struggle. It's exciting."

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