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A key part of the University’s British Sign Language (BSL) Plan is a commitment to supporting staff and students who use BSL to communicate.

The British Sign Language (BSL) awareness training is available again to all staff looking to support colleagues, improve the accessibility of their services, or just to learn more about Deaf culture. Sessions will be available throughout February and March and can be booked through MyEd events.

This image was taken before the pandemic.

The course will give you a greater understanding of the University’s BSL plan and how to support it, as well as sharing more about BSL as a language and how to communicate and work with BSL users.

Audrey Cameron is a Chancellor’s Fellow in the Institute for Education, Teaching and Leadership and Chair of the University’s BSL working group. She explains why this course is more important than ever for the University community to be aware of: “Because of the pandemic, there are less opportunities for face to face meetings with colleagues or support staff. BSL users are isolated because the Covid-19 information shared in the public sector is not usually accessible. Staff having BSL awareness will understand the BSL users’ needs and concerns which makes it more crucial nowadays.

This image was taken before the pandemic.

“The BSL awareness courses delivered by Alison Hendry have been well received and I have noticed the impact on the colleagues I work with.”

Last year there were 16 sessions which had 147 participants from 50 different teams across the University. Here, some of them share their experience with bulletin.

“I am the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion convenor for our School and I thought it was an important part of my education in that role to understand a little more about BSL and the folk who use it.

“Being able to understand and be understood allows us to be part of the University community and feel we belong. I think it is important to try and understand even a little of other people’s lived experiences at the University, and this course shed some light on being a BSL user and part of the Deaf community.”

Dr Jean O’Donoghue, Optimal Medical Imaging (OPTIMA) Centre for Doctoral Training Project in the School of Chemistry.

“I wanted to learn how I could best interact with BSL users in the University and beyond. I want all of the opportunities we have for students to be inclusive and as accessible as possible. I can spell my name and say a few phrases in BSL but without the BSL awareness course I was fairly clueless. I didn’t really know much about BSL community and the historical context of it. There are lots of simple takeaways from the sessions and I do feel better equipped after having completed the course. I would thoroughly recommend it to any staff at the University regardless of what role you have.”

Alex Prior Crespo, Sports Coordinator in Transport and Administration.

“In all honesty, I took the course because it was recommended by my line manager but I love languages and communicating so I was keen to know more. Alison is an excellent trainer and the course really opened my eyes to the daily challenges faced by deaf people, as well as offering practical solutions.”

Clare Anderson, Administrative Assistant in the Diploma Office in Edinburgh Law School.

“My colleague, Dr Audrey Cameron, our Chemistry tutor at Moray House is deaf. She uses BSL and I wanted to be able to communicate better with her. She has a great sense of humour and it’s good to share a joke. It is also respectful of my friend and colleague.

“It doesn’t take much time to pick up the basics. You do it in a group and are very well supported. It makes you more aware of how a deaf person might be left feeling isolated and how you can help with this even in a small way.”

Valerie Gordon, Technician Commitment Action Plan Coordinator and Technical Officer in Moray House School of Education and Sport.

 You can find out more about BSL at the University and read the BSL plan on the dedicated webpages. You can book onto the training course by searching for ‘BSL’ through MyEd events.

Photography: Sam Sills