Florjan Rojba, Executive Director, Albanian National Association of the Deaf, ANAD
The teams worked under my supervision according to the action plan that we designed by ourselves, from 21 January until 22 February 2015. During this time, we successfully interviewed 434 deaf people in our sample quota from all around Albania.
I myself am a deaf person, and have been deaf since birth. This was the first time that I had coordinated such an extensive survey process. However, the teams were very satisfied with our communication and with the way that problems were solved using sign language. It was extremely motivating to see how we were able to quickly solve acute problems that arose in the field, whether related to the study or in more everyday matters, both by ourselves and with the help of our project partners.
The major task of translating questions into sign language from a questionnaire written in a language unknown to the interviewers was naturally challenging. But having the questionnaire on the computer in both a written language and a signed language made it possible for us to overcome this.
Finding an adequate communication method when interviewing respondents proved to be a real challenge. The interviewers had to test and apply a variety of means of facilitating communication, including Albanian Sign Language, fingerspelling, gesticulation, pointing, and different combinations of all of these methods.
The interviewers met deaf people in a variety of living conditions: some were totally isolated, some faced extreme poverty, and others had no access to information or education. This had an emotional impact on the interviewers, who witnessed the hardships that deaf people deal with and have to overcome in their everyday lives in the provinces. This experience was an eye-opener for the interviewers, and it put the barriers and problems of their own lives into perspective. They now have a better understanding of the diversity of people’s circumstances and the living conditions that the deaf population faces throughout Albania. Many members of the survey team encountered deaf-blind people for the first time in their lives. Nevertheless, they learned to communicate with them using tactile sign language. These meetings were empowering experiences for both parties.
It was also a wake-up call for many hearing family members to realise, that the deaf individuals who they considered to be “uneducated” are in fact able to self-reflect, and to see how important it would be for them to receive a better education.
It was a truly rewarding experience for me to work on this research with Inkeri Lahtinen and Päivi Rainò. In 2003, there were just two of us conducting a survey, travelling around Albania and sharing the burden of seeing the reality of the conditions that deaf people face in Albania. The results of this previous survey were also rather modest compared with our 2015 study, which I find to be qualitatively very valid. The nine deaf interviewers also learned a great deal from their work and from solving the problems that they faced along the way. They felt that they had gained a strong confidence that, regardless of the massive challenges that this kind of work brings, it is still possible to push it through successfully.
I would therefore like to express my grateful thanks to all those who participated in or furthered the study; both our Finnish partners Inkeri Lahtinen from The Finnish Association of the Deaf and Päivi Rainò from the Humak University of Applied Sciences, as well as the interpreters and translators. My special thanks go to our sign language interpreters in Albania: Nikoleta Spahi and Arttu Liikamaa, and Selman Hoti in Kosovo.
I also would like to extend sincere thanks to our nine-person team, who successfully completed the data collection and made this whole study possible. Only with the help of this type of research can the deaf community solve the problems they face in their daily lives and clearly show to administrative authorities where these issues lie, so that together, we can find solutions to achieve a higher quality of life.
I thank all of these people alongside me who participated in our research project, from the bottom of my heart.