Helping one million Scots affected by deafness to walk

A series of videos that help break down the barriers to walking for people affected by deafness has been produced, thanks to Smarter Choices, Smarter Places funding.

The three short films share communication and walking tips

deafscotland used our grant to research and produce three videos that encourage Deaf people and those with hearing loss to walk weekly for their physical, social and mental health.

The short films also help raise awareness of the issues that British Sign Language users face when out walking and what can help break down the barriers to getting out and about.

The funding was applied for before the Covid-19 pandemic started, but Janis McDonald, Chief Officer of deafscotland, said restrictions made the walking project even more important.

She said: “The pandemic meant that mental ill health became a real focus, but for people affected by deafness, it wasn’t something that was already present or talked about.

Restrictions made life very difficult. Two-metre distancing was an issue with hearing aids only working at one metre, and face masks meant that lip reading was not possible and that sounds were muffled.

It was an isolating experience for those with hearing loss. Family and friends were no longer popping in to say hello, the telephone wasn’t an option, and some just couldn’t face going through it all every day, even to go to the shops for food shopping.

According to deafscotland, routine tasks which involved walking such as attending appointments stopped, so the need to promote regular walking became essential. Walking was to be understood not just as a means to an end but an end in itself.

Janis said: “Walking is safe, free, social and accessible and there’s so many benefits. It helps people to connect with their environment and their community. People needed to be encouraged to walk with family and friends who are affected by deafness so we consulted on and drew up a list of tips to make it easier and this has proven to be very popular. We believe the tips generated more opportunities for walking. 

“The aim of our walking project was to improve accessible information and share it with key groups in the walking sector.

“We felt that film clips with British Sign Language (BSL), voice and subtitles are more accessible than leaflets, for example. They can be shown in reception/ waiting areas, online via website and via various social media channels.”

There are one million or so Scots directly affected by deafness across the spectrum. According to deafscotland, there are 12,500 BSL users, 4,000 deafblind, 27,000 age related dual sensory loss, 355,000 deafened and 700,000 hard of hearing.

Janis added: “We believe we have reached at least 18,000 individuals at time of reporting. The feedback has been very positive so far and other organisations are now posting the videos including on the NatureScot website.

“We’ll continue to promote and support information availability across those groups and into mainstream communication.

“We want more people to be aware of the communications barriers that are being faced, day and daily, and change behaviour to help make it better for everyone.

We could never have done this walking project without the SCSP grant and the guidance and support of the whole team was invaluable.


The films are currently accessible on YouTube:

Step It Up! 7 Tips to get you walking!

Walking and Talking Tips

Social Communication Tips


Supported by Transport Scotland, our Smarter Choices, Smarter Places programme supports public, third and community sector organisations who have ideas on how to encourage people to walk, cycle or use sustainable transport for everyday journeys. To find out more, or to apply, click here.