Joe Collins: Why I set up DeafInfo, a one-day exhibition for older Deaf people

Posted on July 6, 2016

As he pulls together DeafInfo, a one-day exhibition to provide accessible information to Deaf people aged 50+, Joe Collins takes time out to explain his motivations for setting up this important annual event.

The England Deaf Darby and Joan (EDDJ) Club was set up 13 years ago as an annual holiday to give older Deaf people the opportunity to meet and socialize.

When I turned 50, I decided to go along. I was immediately struck by how many were isolated in their everyday lives with fewer opportunities to meet other deaf people and communicate in BSL.

The holiday was a wonderful opportunity to truly be themselves and enjoy the companionship of up to 800 other deaf people.

One thing that stayed with me was that even though it was a deaf holiday, it was still in a hearing environment at a Butlins Holiday camp.

The entertainment wasn’t accessible as it was all lead by hearing performers. So the following year I decided to offer the services of my entertainment and events company, JC Promotion, to find deaf performers for the entertainment: by deaf people, for deaf people.

I’m proud that we’ve provided the entertainment ever since, showcasing some fantastic deaf performers including John Smith and Matthew Gurney.

Whilst collecting feedback after EDDJ in 2014, we realised that there was a huge lack of accessible information about the issues affecting people over 50 – pensions, housing, health etc.

We arranged for Steve Wherry, Consultant, to give a talk in BSL about financial issues such as retirement planning, will writing, etc. The feedback was amazing – people were finally able to access vital information about things that really mattered to them.

It made me realise how incredibly important it was to continue providing that information and the idea of Deafinfo was born.

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Steve and I visited disability exhibitions to learn more about the companies providing products and services that deaf people need. Then we invited them to meet the deaf community face-to-face at the first DeafInfo exhibition in September 2015, as part of the EDDJ holiday.

We had a Police Officer from Leicester’s PLOD explaining about home security in BSL. Sainsbury’s staff demonstrated how to contact their stores using BSL. And technology company, Easy Link, sold equipment for deaf people, from flashing doorbells to incredible new monitors that tell people with diabetes when their blood sugar is low!

It was a fantastic, fun and informative day! We received so much positive feedback. One attendee said, “I worked in deaf organisations for many years before I retired and I thought I knew it all, but there are so many new things I’ve learned about today! This is a great way to keep up to date with what’s available.”

I’m really looking forward to running a bigger and better Deafinfo in October this year, and I’m so proud that it’s a part of an amazing experience like Deaf UK 50+ (the new name for EDDJ).

I have a huge amount of respect for the organising committee, people like Mike Webster, who are all volunteers and have busy lives but are committed to running the annual event because they are passionate about the deaf community. I share that passion, that’s why I want to keep this event going.

This year’s DeafInfo event takes place during Deaf UK 50+ at Pontins in Lowestoft on Wednesday 5th October 2016, from 10am to 3pm.

If you have a product or service that could benefit Deaf people over 50, email to find out more, discuss suitability and to book your stall.

 For more information on Deaf UK 50+ visit their Facebook page here.


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