COMMUNICATION BETWEEN THE FIELDWORK TEAM AND THE PROJECT PARTNERS
Florjan Rojba, Executive Director, Albanian National Association of the Deaf, ANAD
Our nine-person team left for the data collection trip, while I stayed in Tirana to supervise the fieldwork. We set up a WhatsApp group for keeping in touch instead of using a text-based communication tool. Work teams all sent messages to this platform to inform each other how their work was progressing. Each pair would report on the number of interviews conducted per day. They were also able to ask for advice from other pairs during the interviews, for example on problems relating to the questions, or any other issues that arose. They could take a photo to illustrate the problem, and the group could discuss it together in sign language. If the group could not find a solution, the question came to me. I could then consult INSTAT or the Finnish researcher. Our signed communication and rapid exchange of ideas with other research parties proved to work very smoothly, which was a very positive experience. My task was also to maintain contact between the fieldwork team and the local contact people and solve any problems caused by communication problems, for example.
Later, field work reports produced by the team members were also translated from sign into a written form. Two examples of signed reports can be found here below.
Ilirjana Jupa and I were accompanied by someone who was familiar with the Tropoja area. We conducted five interviews with deaf people. Three of the interviewees were men and two were women. The difficulties we faced were as follows: In one house there was nobody home, whereas in the other house we waited for a while, but the man never came. The person who accompanied us said that there were more deaf people in the area, but he did not know where they lived.
Communication with the five interviewees was varied and difficult. It took us a long time to conduct interviews because several people communicated using gestures, and we had to mimic with our hands and provide a lot of examples. I would also mention the following points: One married couple had no home, and were living without legal permission in an old house from the Communist era, and they even had children there. They told us that they watch the news on Albanian Public Television, but they did not understand the news very well because sign language was used, and they only understood fingerspelling.
I will make a report about the interview process in the district of Fier on 7-8 February 2015. Denis Plloça and I went to Patos and Libofsha, along with a deaf person who was helping us to find the addresses of the deaf people. We interviewed ten people, five men and five women.
During the interviews we encountered some problems: For an interview with two deaf-blind brothers, our coordinator Florjan Rojba insisted that we would carry out the interview despite their condition. I asked for the permission of the family to interview the brothers, as well as the wife of one of them, who was deaf but not blind. The couple had an adult daughter who was able to hear. At first, the family did not approve of the interview, stating that they did not want it to be publicised in the media. We explained that we were ANAD representatives, and that the interviews were made in collaboration with INSTAT and the Ministry of Social Welfare and Youth, and that all information would be confidential. After they agreed, we conducted the interview. Communication was difficult because they were blind but I, with my long experience, managed to communicate with them using fingerspelling on the palm, and tactile signing. Fortunately one of the brothers had previously attended the deaf school and knew some sign language.
The deaf wife told us about their very difficult situation. She was looking for a job, and had asked for help from the state for her husband and brother-in-law, who stayed at home as it was impossible for them to work. Their house was old and its roof was leaking. They had not yet received any assistance from the state for their living condition.
We conducted the other interview in a remote area of Libofsha, where we interviewed a married couple. They had three boys and the youngest (eight years old) was visually impaired. They had asked for assistance from the state due to their situation. Both in Fier and Patos, the deaf people had a huge number of problems. We kept records of everything they told us.