Knitting and Crochet with Deafblind Scotland by Alison McKie

I have had the immense privilege of facilitating a knitting and crochet group with members of Deafblind Scotland for the past few years.

“How do dual sensory impaired people knit - or crochet?” is a question I am frequently asked. After all, even those of us who do not have sight or hearing problems often struggle! Quite simply as all knitters and crocheters know, both crafts are very tactile, and with such a finely honed sense of touch, the members are often aware of “errors” in their work, which they can feel, but which I can hardly see! More than once I have reassured someone that what they feel as an imperfection, will not be seen, or noticed, by anyone else!

Initially the group was a face-to-face group, held in Deafblind Scotland’s national headquarters in a Glasgow suburb. The majority of members were assisted by a guide communicator, who translated what I was saying into British Sign Language (BSL). For those who have very limited sight, their sign language communication would be tactile hand over hand (Hands On British Sign Language). Of course, in 2020 Covid-19 hit - and in-person groups were largely replaced with online meetings. These were a challenge for many people, not least those who are deafblind. We communicate in variety of ways - some folks lip read - in which case I have to be very careful to speak clearly and face the camera directly or encourage them to use the “chat” function on Zoom, an extremely useful tool in supporting communication when information has not been picked up. Sometimes the members would be supported by a guide/communicator to assist them during the sessions in their own home - but sadly staff resources have not always been available for this. And, of course, some devices have assistive screen reading software installed which reads aloud what is written on screen. We have had several laughs relating to technology trying to pronounce knitting terminology, such as psso, tbl or even k2tog!

As we know, knitting and crochet groups are very sociable activities, with an opportunity for chatter as knitters and crocheters meet together. This is true of the Deafblind groups, so much so that, as restrictions have eased and face-to-face groups have been able to start up again, it has been decided to run both in-person groups, and also online groups. This has been particularly appreciated by those who live further afield and cannot travel to the centre. Without having been effectively forced to try online groups, we might not ever have discovered how much fun they can be - and how they can show, again, that Knitting (is) For All.


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