It has long been recognised that deaf people experience barriers to political participation and that notions of citizenship do not take into account the needs of deaf sign language users. In light of an effort at the European level to increase the potential for deaf sign language users to participate in political processes through technology, this paper provides results from a survey study of deaf sign language users across Europe as to their preferences in using Telecommunications Relay Services (TRS), whether they would like to see the establishment of a pan-European multilingual TRS and if they would make use of such a service for the purposes of political participation. Responses from 74 deaf people across 14 European member states confirm that deaf people want to see such a service, and would be willing to use it in order to make contact with European institutions. Therefore, the establishment of such a service has the potential to contribute to improved access to, and increased willingness to engage in, democracy through telecommunications and thus enhance the citizenship status of deaf Europeans, and therefore enhance their political participation and access to information and communication in society.
- sign language
- telecommunication relay services
- political participation